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Free Guide to Digital Preservation Strategies and Best Practices

Why Standards Matter in Digital Preservation

Do you know what digital preservation strategies are and why they are important? In today’s article, you will find a complete guide that will allow you to learn about resources, tools, and organizations to support your preservation efforts, empowering you to preserve your digital content effectively.

Let’s keep reading!

What are digital preservation strategies?

Digital preservation strategies are a systematic plan or approach implemented by organizations to ensure the long-term accessibility, usability, and integrity of digital assets. 

These assets could include anything from documents, images, videos, audio recordings, databases, software, and even entire websites or digital collections.

Why a digital preservation strategy matters and how it impacts digital preservation?

The primary goal of the digital preservation strategy is to mitigate the risks associated with digital obsolescence, technological changes, and the fragility of digital materials. 

It involves implementing policies, procedures, and technical solutions to safeguard digital content against threats such as hardware and software obsolescence, media degradation, file format obsolescence, and loss of institutional knowledge.

For example, NARA’s Digital Preservation Strategy 2022-2026, describes the specific strategies that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the U.S. government’s important documents will use in its digital preservation efforts.

It specifically addresses infrastructure, data integrity, format and media sustainability, information security, and training.

So, it matters significantly because it directly impacts the ability of organizations to safeguard their valuable digital assets for future generations. 

In today’s digital age, where a vast amount of our cultural, scientific, and historical heritage is created and stored in digital form, the need for effective digital preservation has never been greater.

We recommend you read our last post about the importance of digital preservation.

Most importantly, failure to implement a robust digital preservation strategy can lead to the loss of valuable information, knowledge, and cultural heritage, with potentially profound consequences for future generations. It can result in data corruption, loss of access to important records, and even the disappearance of entire digital collections.

Are digital preservation strategies and digital preservation plans the same?

While related, digital preservation strategies and digital preservation plans serve distinct purposes within the realm of preserving digital assets.

A digital preservation strategy provides the overarching vision and direction for digital preservation efforts, and a digital preservation plan serves as the detailed roadmap for implementing that strategy. 

So, they are complementary documents that work together to ensure the effective preservation of digital assets, with the strategy guiding the overall approach and the plan detailing the specific actions needed to achieve preservation goals.

Digital preservation strategies typically encompass various key components:

Risk assessment

Identifying and assessing the risks that could potentially threaten the integrity and accessibility of digital assets over time.

Selection and appraisal

Determining which digital assets are worth preserving and ensuring that they align with the organization’s mission and goals.

File format management

Choosing sustainable and widely supported file formats for storing digital content, as well as monitoring and managing format migrations when necessary.

Metadata creation and management

Creating and maintaining descriptive, administrative, and technical metadata associated with digital assets to enable their discovery, understanding, and management.

Storage and infrastructure

Establishing reliable storage systems and infrastructure to store and manage digital assets securely over the long term, including considerations for redundancy, backup, and disaster recovery.

Access and dissemination

Providing mechanisms for authorized users to access and use preserved digital content, while also considering issues related to privacy, copyright, and licensing.

Monitoring and maintenance

Regularly monitoring the condition of digital assets, updating preservation strategies as needed, and ensuring ongoing maintenance and preservation activities.

“A well-defined and effectively implemented digital preservation strategy ensures that valuable digital assets remain accessible, usable, and meaningful over time, contributing to the continuity of knowledge, the advancement of research, and the preservation of cultural heritage.”

Libnova

10 Steps to develop a successful digital preservation strategy and tips to protect your digital footprint:

1. Assess Your Assets

  • Identify the types of digital content you manage: text, images, audio, video, databases, etc.
  • Understand the significance and value of each asset.
  • Consider the lifespan of different formats (e.g., PDFs, JPEGs, XML files).

2. Set Clear Goals

  • Define your preservation objectives: long-term access, data integrity, compliance, etc.
  • Involve stakeholders (archivists, IT staff, domain experts) to align goals.

3. Select Appropriate Formats

  • Choose sustainable formats that balance compatibility and longevity.
  • Avoid proprietary formats or those with limited support.

4. Metadata Matters

  • Create descriptive metadata for each asset (title, creator, date, etc.).
  • Technical metadata (file format, resolution, compression) aids in preservation.

5. Storage and Backup Strategies

  • Implement redundant storage solutions (on-site and off-site).
  • Regularly back up your digital assets.
  • Consider cloud storage for scalability.

6. Version Control

  • Maintain version histories for evolving digital objects.
  • Document changes and reasons for modifications.

7. Access Policies and Permissions

  • Define who can access preserved content.
  • Specify usage rights and restrictions.

8. Regular Audits and Risk Assessments

  • Periodically review your preservation strategy.
  • Assess risks (technological, environmental, organizational).

9. Training and Awareness

  • Educate staff on preservation best practices.
  • Foster a preservation-conscious culture.

10. Test and Validate

  • Regularly validate the integrity of stored files.
  • Test disaster recovery procedures.

Some digital preservation concepts you may be interested in learning about

Data Integrity: Ensuring data remains accurate and unaltered over time.

Format Migration: Transitioning content from obsolete formats to current ones.

Metadata: Descriptive information about digital objects.

Access Policies: Guidelines for granting access to preserved content.

Digital Curation: Managing and maintaining digital collections.

Emulation: Simulating obsolete hardware or software environments to access old files.

Risk Assessment: Evaluating potential threats to digital assets.

Long-Term Storage: Choosing reliable storage solutions for extended periods.

This guide is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal or professional advice. Seek guidance from qualified professionals in digital preservation for your specific preservation needs.

At Libnova, we have provided cutting-edge digital preservation solutions to help more than 50 institutions in 15 countries safeguard their valuable content since 2009. Our journey began with a focus on innovation, resulting in the development of LIBSAFE, the most advanced digital preservation platform available. 

We will be happy to help you design the best digital preservation strategy for your institution.

Related articles: 

The importance of digital preservation to prevent data loss

References:

Digital Preservation Strategies | Digital Preservation Management

Concept of Digital Preservation – UNESCO

UNESCO and DPC release Executive Guide on Digital Preservation

LIBNOVA: The most advanced digital preservation platform

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