The rapid evolution of digital storage technologies over the past two decades illustrates how seemingly timeless inventions can become completely obsolete in the blink of an eye. Today, floppy disks are all but extinct, the use of CD-ROMs is drastically decreasing, and the proliferation of cloud-based storage suggests that hard disk drives may too be on their last legs.

Organizations that retain digital records over the long-term must ensure that their records remain accessible into the future, as digital storage technologies currently relied upon become obsolete and new ones emerge to replace them. The accessibility of digital records requires a specialized approach to long-term digital preservation.

The Unique Challenges of Long-Term Digital Preservation

Organizations need appropriate systems in place to ensure that digital information will remain readable, usable and generally accessible over the long-term. The Information Governance Initiative (IGI) recently published a survey report, “The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark.” The survey found that while 98% of respondents had records that required long-term retention, only 11% of respondents were actually storing their records in a purpose-built long-term digital preservation system.

Shared network drives and general-purpose storage repositories are commonly used by organizations for digital storage. However, these storage solutions are generally inadequate to meet the unique challenges of protecting and accessing digital records over the long-term. Even with additional backup or archiving, the use of these systems cannot always preserve digital records if the physical media, the hardware or software required to access the records, or the digital file format itself becomes obsolete.

Storage Solutions Specialized for Long-Term Retention

An overwhelming 97% of information governance professionals surveyed by IGI claimed to be aware that technology obsolescence could put long-term digital records and information at risk of not being readable or usable in the future. Despite this awareness, only 16% of respondents were actively mitigating this risk by transferring data to a standards-based digital preservation system.

Data storage technologies will inevitably continue to evolve over time. Consequently, it is critical that organizations take a proactive approach to the long-term preservation of digital records. To ensure that digital information survives into the future, organizations should implement storage solutions that are specialized for long-term retention and adaptable to future advances in technology.