Future Proof update June 2009 – Is your digital information at risk? June 16, 2009

More and more NSW public sector organisations are moving to fully digital recordkeeping, bringing a range of benefits including faster access to information and reduced records storage costs. It is important, however, to remember that digital information can be vulnerable to a range of risks, including:

  • loss of authenticity – if, for example, you cannot show that the record has been kept tamper-proof or if records management actions like transfer or migration of the record were not properly authorised
  • becoming unreadable – as a result of relying on a piece of software that has become outdated or which a vendor has stopped supporting
  • being lost altogether – because of a computer virus, ‘bit rot’ or damage to the medium it resides on.

Some of these problems are highlighted in an entertaining way in a recent video made by Digital Preservation Europe following the adventures of ‘Digi-Man’ in his quest to rid the world of threats to digital information. You can view the video here (requires access to You Tube).

So what steps can you take as to protect against these types of threats to your digital records? Here are some strategies that you can start implementing today:

  1. Keep digital records in recordkeeping systems – when digital records are registered and tracked using recordkeeping metadata, they can be shown to be authentic, reliable records if challenged. Check the Standard on digital recordkeeping for the minimum requirements relating to recordkeeping metadata.
  2. Use a limited number of formats to create records, preferably open standards – by using formats like ODF (Open Document Format), your information is less at risk from software companies changing their systems making information created in older versions of their products unreadable
  3. Try to avoid putting digital records on removable media- ‘Out of sight out of mind’ means that one of the most common reasons behind digital information becoming unreadable is that it has been sitting on an old floppy disk or some other medium in a drawer for years. Also by keeping the records online they will be protected by your organisation’s virus protection and back up processes
  4. Take care when migrating records – this can be one of the riskiest times in a digital record’s life! Our Managing digital records guidelines contain detailed information on managing the migration process.
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