Preservica’s Jon Tilbury tells TechWeekEurope why digital preservation could be the most important action for many businesses in years to come
Google VP Vint Cerf recently warned that there will be little record of the 21st Century as hardware, software and file formats become obsolete. Across the world, people rely on social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram to store files such as photos, and with applications like Sharepoint and Dropbox, or the Cloud as a catch-all solution, the corporate world isn’t doing much better.
Do most Chief Information Officers have detailed accounts of their digital preservation plans, complete with the knowledge of how long various files must be kept in order to stay completely compliant? It seems unlikely. Many think in terms of continuity or storage, which is step one, but not many think as far ahead as to think that many of these files will be obsolete in thirty years. Not surprising, as this is beyond the lifespan of their careers, however, obsolescence may well fall within the regulatory deadline for records accessibility. And then, there’s an organisation’s brand history – does the CEO really want to lose all records documenting your company’s heritage?
It’s fair to say that digital preservation isn’t high on the corporate agenda. In fact, most of the C-suite (with the exception of a few savvy Chief Risk Officers who know the regulators could come knocking at their door any moment), are unfamiliar with the term which refers to the practice of protecting digital assets against obsolescence so that they are usable and readable when required.
When asked about digital preservation, most CEOs will tell you that their company’s entire digital estate lives in the cloud, citing services that store multiple copies of digital assets in multiple locations, performing integrity checking and self-healing. The cloud, whether it’s public or private, is great because it’s durable and scalable. The cloud however, doesn’t look after format longevity.
Serious Compliance Violations: Who, me?
When it comes to true compliance, the cloud combined with a comprehensive digital preservation solution makes for a match made in heaven, safeguarding the C-suite from serious compliance violations.
For example, international trade regulations may require that certain documents are kept legible, readily accessible and available for inspection at all times for anywhere from three to 30 years. The cloud may keep your documents secure, but it will be of no help if a file format dies out, and the file itself becomes inaccessible. Can you honestly say you’re comfortable that your corporate digital estate is future-proofed and will be completely accessible in 10 years’ time?
Safeguarding critical digital content and ensuring records can be found, read and understood requires a deep understanding of the information lifecycle and a dedicated digital preservation effort. Without this, the C-suite may find itself at serious risk not only of losing critical business records, but also vulnerable to the loss of its corporate history.
In looking at it from a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) point of view, CEO’s also want their personal contribution to the history of their organisation to be preserved for posterity. Most will agree that it’s not just their personal contribution that needs saving, but the whole success of the organisation under their leadership!
You’ve been public ‘schooled’
Surprisingly, the public sector is leading the way with digital preservation with many government data records and archives being carefully preserved and accessible via the cloud or local tiered storage, including many US state archives such as Texas, Kentucky and Michigan. On this side of the pond, the Met Office, the UK National Archives and the European Commission are also actively preserving their digital assets. There are certain corporations, such as BT and HSBC, who are leading the way on the corporate front. These firms are thinking beyond asset protection and risk mitigation and recognising the value of their rich corporate history, and preserving it for future generations.
Whether your objective is to preserve your part in corporate history or ensure compliance with the numerous data and information legislations, both are entirely valid in making sure you play corporate catch up when it comes to digital preservation.
Jon Tilbury is CEO of Preservica