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Digital preservation

Ana Canteli

Written by Ana Canteli on 21 May 2021

Digital preservation is a concept that is not less important because it goes unnoticed or even ignored. It should be part of the document management of any organization. Not surprisingly, preserving documents related to actions, agreements, transactions, or decision-making is essential to guarantee accountability to interested parties. In addition, given the breadth in the creation and use of digital material, it is common to find this type of content as evidence in legal proceedings or audits.

 The conservation and preservation of cultural heritage is a set of measures, techniques, processes, and resources to guarantee the permanence of digital information. It can be used while maintaining its fundamental characteristics such as integrity, authenticity, reliability, legibility, and functionalities, regardless of technological changes or other causes that may alter the information they contain.

The ability to create and record information has increased exponentially; almost at the same speed, the duration of the media has decreased.

The purpose of digital archiving is to guarantee the preservation and use of information in the long term, which is why it is so important to address it, not in isolation but as a whole, taking into account all the tasks that compose it. It would be of little use to keep a file if it cannot be used later. Unlike in the preservation of physical documents, digital preservation outweighs the protection of the information over the medium. Ensuring long-term conservation is more of a challenge than simply keeping the bit string intact.

What problems does digital preservation solve?

The fact that digital material lacks physical support, together with the dependence on technology to access and decode it, means that the data that compose different factors can alter it:

  • Technological obsolescence: digital archiving ensures, through different strategies, that digital information is not trapped in formats that become inaccessible due to the disappearance in the market of all or some of the computer components (software and hardware) of its environment.

  • Deterioration of support: Over time, the material elements in which the information has been recorded age, losing the characteristics that guaranteed the use and access to the content. Other factors, such as temperature and humidity, must also be considered when ensuring the long-term preservation of digital resources.

  • Security: a multitude of factors can threaten information security conditions, but regarding the preservation of digital material, we take into account above all the impact of human errors, such as the lack of version control; Deliberate attempts to alter or delete information, or failures in the systems necessary to access or use the data

  • Loss of information: also motivated by a multitude of reasons. From the application of arbitrary encryption policies, the impossibility of managing legal authorizations, errors in proper document management - misidentification, partial description of digital material - to lack resources in the form of time or knowledge, through the incomplete application of the preservation of digital contents.

To avoid all these problems, creating and implement a preservation plan in the organization is highly recommended.

What is a digital preservation plan?

It is the conservation program for a collection of digital objects in which the following aspects are defined:

  • Policies preservation: obviously, not everything can be preserved, so the criteria that qualify digital content as a subject of conservation will have to be defined. Usually, all files that run the risk of technological obsolescence are considered.

  • The context allows the interpretation and understanding of digital information in the long term. Thus, users will have detailed information on the technological tools to reproduce the information they intend to consult.

  • The preservation strategy: there are several. The most important are: the use of descriptive and preservation metadata. This strategy adds group properties to files that provide explanatory information, which aids in the retrieval of objects; and conservation information that indicates how to access the data. And migration. It is the most used strategy. It means converting digital resources to new formats so as not to lose the information they contain.

  • The functions and responsibilities of the preservation plan and its follow-up: the ideal to articulate the preservation plan is to have the collaboration of the board of directors that will link financial and human resources to the conception, implementation, and maintenance of the project within the company.

  • Retention schedules: determine the legal, regulatory, and corporate requirements for document retention. The OpenKM document management system provides a file plan that helps meet this requirement.

How to make a preservation plan?

 When approaching a preservation plan, a multitude of factors must be taken into account. Among them, the characteristics of the maintenance environment are essential since they will define the most suitable digital archiving strategy. The person in charge of the team in order of the preservation plan must know the following aspects:

  • If the organization has its document and data servers and what they are like.

  • Do they use cloud storage?

  • How the e-mail documents flow is managed.

  • Does the company allows content to be stored on the hard drives of the pc.

The objective is the centralization of all the documentation of the entity in the exact location to facilitate the performance and the application of the measures; since alternatives such as storage on computer hard drives have quite a few disadvantages:

  • Document access problems; since these become accessible when the user creates shared folders where the files are deposited, they can put their authenticity into question.

  • Duplication of documents by each user and lack of version control affects reliability since they are not centralized.

OpenKM offers a free software document management system, which allows managing the complete life cycle of digital resources, including the digital preservation policy that the organization wishes to implement. The software is available in an on-premise version, installed on the entity's server. It is also possible to install it in a hybrid version or Cloud mode.

In the case in which the organization is interested in cloud storage, it is advisable to make the following assessments:

  • Take this type of storage into account, if possible, when designing maintenance and digital preservation protocols.

  • Establish maintenance deadlines for cloud resources.

  • Know the contracted space and the possibilities of increasing it.

  • Backup policies.

  • Characteristics of the untying process.

With OpenKM Cloud, the organization can adapt the size of the cloud to its needs over time. This mode includes technical support, hosting maintenance, and incremental backups.OpenKM, both in its server and cloud versions, the client holds ownership of their information at all times. The system includes full export functionalities - not just the initial repository but all the work you have done on the system.

Regarding the control of digital files in and of e-mails, the organization should incorporate them into the document repository, transferring them in PDF or XML format. In this regard, OpenKM's document management software includes an e-mail archive module that indexes them, facilitating their search based on multiple criteria, applicable simultaneously: date range, author, recipient, whether it contains attachments or not, the path within the system, etc.

Standards for a digital preservation plan

A fundamental aspect of implementing a document management system is determining what standards and formats are used. The consistent use of appropriate measures is essential as they provide a reference point to develop the digital heritage management project with guarantees of authenticity and reliability. These contain instructions to ensure that the organization's system performs its functions reliably and effectively.

To cope with rapidly evolving technologies and the pressing need for interoperability between systems, the adoption of standards and formats is essential. Interoperability is based on those standards that establish the characteristics required by the document management system so that different programs can work together or interact by exchanging information.

This need has led to the development of standards and formats, which aim to guide technical issues that arise when an organization considers implementing a digital content preservation plan. Here we list the most important

  • MoReq2010 (Modular requirements for records systems): The objective of this standard is to provide a comprehensive set of requirements for digital document management applications, adaptable to various activities, sectors, and types of organization. It tries to define a standard set of essential services for different document management applications with a modular perspective. It establishes an information model that includes types of entities (information about documentary groups, events, roles, users, etc.), structures of data, system preservation metadata and definition of functionalities.

  • The standard DoD 5015.02-STD (Electronic records management software applications standard design criteria): establishes the basic functional requirements for security classification, access control, and other processes. It also identifies the desirable characteristics for a document management application. It also includes the essentials to ensure interoperability between digital document management applications.

  • The ISO 16175-2 Standard:( Functional Guidelines, principles and functional requirements for documents in electronic office environments. or systems that manage electronic documents). Establishes a set of application requirements for systems that contain digital files, commonly known as electronic records management systems (ERMS) or enterprise content management systems (ECMS). These requirements apply to documents created using e-mail, word processors, spreadsheets, or scanning applications ( text documents and still or moving images) managed through these types of systems.

  • Content management interoperability services (CMIS): defines a conceptual model and web services bindings used by applications to work with one or more CMS. The CMIS interface functions as a service layer that facilitates the exchange of information between the organization's applications and document repositories, so it is proposed to define generic capabilities and services to improve interoperability between one storage and another application and a repository.

The OpenKM document management software is prepared to meet all the requirements of the standards that best suit the company's objectives.

Documentary formats for a digital preservation plan

To facilitate long-term preservation, export, and migration, universal or open standards are recommended. These formats ensure greater efficiency in the performance of document management processes and controls and a higher level of interoperability between systems.

In electronic environments, the PDF / A format has become widely used as the standard for digital files to be kept for long periods. This format is used to present electronic documents, preserving the visual appearance, regardless of the applications used to create, store or represent computer files.

A document created in PDF / A format is a document:

  • self-contained: contains all the elements necessary for its representation,

  • self-documenting: contains your description

  • device-independent.

Thus, a PDF file can be generated from other electronic formats or by digitizing documents, but it maintains a logical structure and allows metadata preservation.

With the PDF / A format, you don't need the applications usually required to open and view electronic documents; this allows us to avoid the software's obsolescence and allow searches by text content. It also supports the embedding of electronic signatures on the document. All this makes PDF / A the ideal format to keep documents unaltered in the long term.

The OpenKM document management software includes a PDF converter and a set of PDF tools that efficiently allow users to work with this type of content. Apart from displaying the document, it can be divided, rotated, and extracted pages or even deleted them when necessary.

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