Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Our Dying Data

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Our Dying Data

Article excerpt

"As computers and software are upgraded, rendering older forms of data storage obsolete, many electronic documents are heading toward an abyss. With so much talk about, and movement toward a "paperless" workplace, the day will soon come when paper backup is not always going to be there ... How to organize and store electronic records so they can be read far into the future is a problem ... The advent of information technology has outpaced the archiving profession's ability to deal with the changes ... Technology changes so rapidly that three to five years is a long time for a computer operating system to last. Not only do hardware, software and storage media become outmoded relatively quickly, but archivists usually don't get their hands on electronic records until years ofter agencies have produced the materials ... The result is that electronic records now going onto the shelves are stored on ephemeral media far more fragile than paper... There is no successful model for keeping those records currently so that they will be retrievable and readable in 150 years - or even in 15 ... Even when the storage medium is documented properly, it still can decay while stacked on a shelf. The tape can chemically decompose. Gravity can cause magnetic tape to stretch over time so that data becomes unreadable. Beyond physical deterioration is the problem of playing the information back. A high quality CD-ROM disc can potentially last 50-75 years. But there are no guarantees that society won't have moved several technologies beyond CDs by then, the way it has long ago stopped relying on eight-track audiotapes of Betamax VCRs. …

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