I just completed my webinar for AIIM on long-term archiving. Excellent attendance (kudos to AIM!) and some great questions that, sadly, we didn’t get to during the session. I’ll try to tackle them here in hopes that their authors find these answers!
- What are vital records versus ordinary records? I like this suggestion from another attendee: “Vital Record” is, by definition, a record without which the organization could not continue to function.
- Would you consider Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable receipts and related backup documentations vital records? They may be vital to some businesses and not vital to others. I suspect that these would be much more vital in the short term and much less important after the year is closed out. But I can imagine scenarios where they would be required for decades.
- It was mentioned that it was risky to scan paper into a electronic format without a written, compact retention policy. My question is this: If you are in the process of setting policy and adding to your policy and procedures manual is it still ok to scan? My boss has pushed for me to begin the conversion process even though I haven’t managed to complete the new policy and procedures. I think this is his way of showing his superiors that we are making progress on a project that they weren’t neccesarily behind in the first place. I would worry that you’ll waste effort scanning documents that shouldn’t be saved. But it’s better to duplicate and waste some effort than to not save at all. So scan away! But get that policy done too!
- What about TIFF storage? Is that still viable? and For long term storage, why isn’t tiff G4 an option? TIFF is certainly a widely-used format for images, and G3 compressed TIFF will probably be readable a century from now (assuming we’re still here!) Plus, TIFF is (usually) lossless. However, it’s very flexible, and a TIFF file can contain lots of different data – you could easily create a TIFF that won’t be readable next week! Also, there have been some patent/royalty arguments about TIFF and related technologies. Finally, TIFF files tend to be huge (since they’re lossless) compared to other (lossy) formats. I like open standards like PNG better since they’re fully documented and portable, but TIFF is probably a decent choice.
- When storing paper does the newer printing technology – inkjet, laser etc. match the archival quality of older paper and inks? and What do we need to know about the kind of paper that should be used for long term archiving? I’m concerned that newer technologies, including printer tech, won’t last like old ones. I have impact-printed pages from the 1980s that look like new, and laser-printed pages from the 1990s that are clear and clean. But my old inkjet pages are very faded. Now, this could have to do with the paper I chose, and it could be that old inkjet isn’t a predictor of new inkjet, but I’m skeptical. HP claims that their Vivera inkjet ink will last “108 years”, which seems oddly precise. I guess they took a Photosmart printer back to 1900 and printed out some pages? In all seriousness, be concerned about any claims like this that cannot possibly be tested. And consider handling as well – proper temperature, humidity, and storage will make documents last much, much longer!
- Dry caskets of nuclear waste are dangerously radioactive for over 10,000 years. Consider the “pancake” drive: titanium disks written with an ion beam in both analog and digital. Even without ASCII, it can be read with an electron microscope. Now that is longterm storage. Do you really trust current formats for 50-100 years? Think of how much change there has been in the last 50 years. and If There was not a question of Blu-ray discs lasting for decades , what is your opinion on the technology as a viable archive solution? I’m skeptical of all unprovable longevity claims, since media has never lived up to them in the past! If I had to guess, I’d say that mechanical devices like disks and tapes will have more problems than plain discs, and that optical will last longer than magnetic. So I bet Blu Ray media will outlive most other current mainstream media.
- If it isn’t vital you should not convert. On another project (our archives) I am trying to save and prevent any further damage to the records because they are currently stored in a basement with water leaks, rats, and no climate control. Is this instance how do you weigh the vital and non-vital? Specifically, I was asked to bring in outside companies to see what they had to say and get quotes after my warnings and price estimations were rejected. Any suggestions on how to get across the importance of not allowing these records to just rot? Rats don’t make great records managers! Seriously, though, I’d say that something is seriously out of whack when records are stored like this. Maybe you should come in to work one day and claim that all of the records are destroyed and see what reaction you get? But be sure to have another job lined up before you pull this stunt…
- I just want to point out there is a whole profession that deals with this every day – the Archivist. Information can be found at www.archivists.org – they even have a group of Business Archivists that you can talk to. Thank you for that link – I’ll look into it!
- Can you provide more information on what Open Standard Format is? I like standards that are well documented in public places – ASCII charts are freely available and widely distributed, for example. These are a message to future generations – when you encounter this file, decode it with this chart! But proprietary formats concern me, especially when their documentation isn’t freely available and open.
- When will the presentation slides be available? The webinar and slides should be posted at AIIM’s site within two weeks.
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