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What are the future challenges of digital preservation?

July 06, 20186 min read

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MirrorWeb were recently invited to an episode of the Digital Preservation Futures webinar by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), to share our insights around website archiving and to discuss the future challenges of digital preservation.  In this post, explore these themes in further detail.

The future challenges of digital preservation

Secure, immediate access to digital information has become fundamental to decision making and business success, driving innovation and meeting privacy, regulatory and legal requirements.

Every organisation needs or wants to keep significant amounts of digital information derived from web and social channels for a wide range of important reasons.

Evidence strongly suggests that, as technology develops and more digital assets are created by businesses, the digital preservation solutions in place require greater focus (or, in many cases, an urgent review).

According to Forrester, corporates now face greater digital fragility risk because a much larger amount of digital assets (including webpages, social posts, videos, podcasts, email campaigns etc) are being created, putting a strain on traditional storage methods.

For those looking to capture and preserve their online channels, there are few key things to remember. Firstly, the web is constantly evolving and changing, therefore they must recognise that the future challenges of digital preservation will also change over time. Secondly, it's critical to deploy solutions that are built with the future in mind. To meet these challenges you need state-of-the-art web and social media archiving solutions and to recognise the threat of digital fragility by taking action.

Technology

Many organisations need to archive their websites but there's a huge tech gap. For example, older archiving providers can't capture modern websites with any accuracy. This is because they heavily use JavaScript, Ajax and Apache, and the traditional Heritrix archiver isn’t fit for purpose with no standardised solution currently available.

This is an area of concern for many businesses, for example, if a regulated firm is unable to capture this dynamic content then they put themselves at risk of non-compliance.

Businesses therefore need to modernise their approach by ensuring they have deployed the right technology to meet modern demands. Remember, the web is constantly changing and only those who truly have their eye on the ball when it comes to web archiving will be able to provide accurate web records that preserve your digital estate for the future.

Access

Businesses must go beyond the bare minimum of compliance-driven governance and realise their digital information has a lifetime value - improving their ability to conduct analysis, improve customer experience and inspire innovation. This means that to ensure access is always available, you need to act now.

You've no doubt heard the term, 'the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data'. This shift to a data-focused economy has put a spotlight on the importance of the digital assets a business creates. Websites are must-haves and the role of digital marketing is critical to many business models in cultivating customer bases.

Unfortunately, the investment being poured into these digital assets (content creation, website design etc) could inevitably be lost due to corporate digital fragility. With this in mind, CMOs and CIOs are waking up to this realisation and recognise the need to preserve these assets and ensure they're accessible for the future.

The stability of platforms and the proliferation of apps and collaboration tools also presents new challenges and requires innovation. Social channels like Snapchat are difficult to archive because the messages get deleted - for example, MirrorWeb can archive social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but we must keep up with the changing API’s which is a challenge for every archiving vendor.

Tech.Access.Speed.Scale (T.A.S.S)

Speed

Keeping in step with the digital evolution and the sheer size and scale of change to come is a challenge for us all. There is also a boardroom knowledge gap/procurement legacy and lack of investment to catch up. However, with the immediate threat growing and the world waking up to the need to preserve digital content there are positive signs of progress.

Speed is essential if archiving technology is to keep pace with the web. Unfortunately, many digital preservation solutions suffer from lack of attention, investment and forward-planning. On the other side of the fence, many businesses can still be found using obsolete mediums such as discs and USBs to store digital data.

We've even seen regulated firms manually taking screenshots of web content in an attempt to capture dynamic content - unfortunately these aren't recognised as immutable records and can't be used for legal admissions. This is a serious concern if the regulator comes knocking and you have no form of viable digital evidence.

Scale

The increasing amount of data needed to transfer, access and store is increasing daily, and requires solutions to meet the future requirements of Petabytes of data. By harnessing the cloud, MirrorWeb have been able to create a web archiving solution that scales, this just wouldn’t have been possible with a traditional data centre model.

Once again, this highlights how rapid change can come about and why it's important for firms to invest in not only the right technology but the right people too. For many businesses, there's a huge knowledge gap in the digital/tech space. The organisations who recognise this and hire CMOs, CTOs and CIOs who understand the modern digital landscape will have a brighter future, one where digital is a core focus.

Meeting the future challenges of digital preservation

Firms must actively plan for data retention in the long-term. Take time to consider the above risks we have laid out and how corporates can suffer when losing digital assets. Stop regarding digital archiving as an afterthought and become more proactive. Hire and develop digital expertise, invest in top-of-the-line archiving solutions and embrace preservation as part of your internal processes.

Also, more attention should be also turned towards your day-to-day digital conduct whilst supporting data preservation strategies. It should be made clear to employees that the digital content being created will be viewed for years and decades ahead.

Archives give you the ability to produce legally admissible records, due to their nature they're often timestamped and signed with a digital signature to prove authenticity. On top of general good practice (ensuring digital content is of a high standard, reinforcing brand values etc), consider how conduct can be improved to support and implement these processes. This could also mean more considered, thoughtful and timeless and content is created.