Digital fragility poses real dangers to today's businesses, simply due to the massive amounts of corporate value tied up in digital assets. Digital preservation is key and more businesses are realising the benefits of web archiving.
Businesses now face greater digital fragility risk because a huge number of digital assets (including webpages, social posts, videos, podcasts etc) are being continually created.
This all puts a strain on traditional storage methods and websites are under a lot of pressure.
Issues such as link rot (the process in which a visitor reaches a broken link), obsolete formats and vendor abandonment mean digital preservation is of high concern for many businesses.
The risks of losing your digital assets
Ultimately, digital assets are most vulnerable to time. Tellingly, Vint Cerf (vice president at Google and one of the original developers of the internet) fears we are heading towards a 'digital dark age'.
This is because the considerations of long-term data preservation do not match the pace at which we create digital assets.
For example, in 2019 Myspace suffered a massive data loss and lost all content uploaded to the platform before 2016. Even though Myspace is no longer a dominant social media platform, this meant millions of songs, videos and pics were lost. This incident highlights the vulnerability businesses' digital assets now face.
“The Myspace loss is the digital Great Fire of London, and that’s probably understating it.”
The Financial Times (2019)
Such losses don't have to be as high profile as what happened with Myspace and unfortunately these can be subtle and gradually occur over time. Ultimately, for businesses that don't take digital preservation seriously, they are at risk of:
Intellectual Property theft
Every year, over $1trn will be spent by businesses to protect their brand assets against trademark infringement. Having such valuable information on websites means such assets have become increasingly vulnerable to compromise.
In regulated industries, such as financial services, there are numerous rules in place around the information published on websites and how this is communicated to visitors. Poor oversight of websites, and financial promotions made on them, can lead to regulatory breaches.
Brand assets being compromised or lost
Websites can contain huge amounts of valuable branding assets, such as logos, taglines, specific marketing campaigns etc. This kind of collateral can be extremely valuable to a business's brand, meaning huge amounts of commercial value can be if these are compromised.
The role of digital archiving
Preserving digital assets isn’t just about 'good' corporate practice, these assets can help inspire future marketing campaigns and allow businesses to continue benefiting from the investment they’ve made.
Which is why, as well as satisfying regulatory record-keeping requirements, archiving solutions are receiving significantly more interest.
Digital or website archiving is, in essence, the process of capturing and archiving the digital content a business produces - all of which is typically stored in a platform where a business can retrieve these records on-demand.
Using crawl technology, web archiving solutions instantly scour entire digital estates (or can be targeted to specific web pages) to create 100% accurate replicas. Not only are these archives legally-admissible from a regulatory perspective (they are time-stamped and tamperproof), they can still be fully interacted with at a later date.
With a web archive, you can return to how your website appeared at a specific moment in time and interact with it as you would if it was life.
Why backups (and screenshots!) aren't enough for digital preservation
To secure their digital assets, businesses have invested massively into backups of their websites. Should a website suffer an outage, a backup can be a great way of ensuring everything is back up and running as soon as possible.
However, backups fall short as complete digital preservation solutions.
A backup stores data that’s needed for operational recovery so it has a very different purpose to an archive. Unlike a specified archive, a backup can also be altered so it does not meet the legal-admissibility requirement.
Some businesses also think screenshots are enough to preserve their digital assets, creating snapshots of how their website appeared at a certain moment in time. Unfortunately, while this creates accurate copies of a website's appearance, screenshots fall short for digital preservation.
Screenshots are standalone static images which cannot be interacted with! At the same time, they aren’t immune to tampering and therefore fail to satisfy compliance standards from many regulators.
The advantages of digital archiving
Preserve your business's digital legacy
With archives, businesses can create complete and fully navigational records of their brands' journeys. This not only protects valuable brand assets but creates a resource that can help inspire and educate future generations of marketers and their campaigns.
Meet regulators' demands
In certain industries, incumbents face stringent record-keeping requirements. Within financial services for example, rule 4.11.1 by the FCA requires firms to create thorough records of all their communications (including websites). Archives meet this in a legally-admissible way (timestamped, ISO-compliant and tamperproof) and can be structured to for audits and information requests. You can learn more about how financial services firms are archiving their websites here.
Add greater protection against claims & complaints
With so much information being continually published, businesses require greater accountability over their digital estates. Whenever a complaint situation arises, being able to prove what was said via a 100% accurate and irrefutable archive could provide a priceless defence for businesses.
Prevent digital value from being lost
The world's leading brands and businesses are now creating and publishing a huge amount of digital content. However, unlike traditional brand assets such as posters or advertorials, these digital assets can’t be filed in a historic brand archive. Web archives are being increasingly turned to as a way of protecting yesterday's most valuable brands for tomorrow and beyond.
Create a lasting resource for your business
Archives aren't just great for satisfying regulations and preserving digital assets, they can be heavily leveraged by businesses as learning resources. Being able to revisit a previous incarnation of a website, that can be navigated as if it was still live, can be extremely useful for internal training processes as well as future campaign planning.
How to best use digital archiving
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.
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, 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.
Share your archives
We’ve stressed how important digital assets are to a business, but this knowledge is useless if it doesn’t get out of the boardroom! Ensure more employees are engaged with the company’s digital content and that ownership of these processes runs throughout the wider team.
Use archives to drive CX
The clue is in the name, many digital assets are used to drive CX and EX efforts so consider this in your thinking. Some firms make the mistake of leaving their archiving solution to run in the background and only turn to it during audits or dispute situations. With so much value tied up in an archive, become introspective and see what you can learn from your digital assets.