Preserving your digital archive
A few basic rules will ensure you preserve your digital archive in a more sustainable way.
Use clear names
Preserving your digital archive properly begins with giving your folders and documents clear and logical names (see Naming files and folders). This ensures you can find documents again quickly without needing to open files unnecessarily to find out what they are.
Perform regular integrity checks
Integrity means that the form, content and structure of a document are the same when you consult it as they were when it was created or received. For digital documents, we check the bit integrity. A bit is the smallest unit of information, and can be either 1 or 0. If the sequence of zeros and ones changes, the file is no longer identical and is therefore changed. Integrity checking is important for finding out whether a document's content is still the same and the file can still be opened.
This check is performed using checksums. New checksums are created for every check – to compare the new sequence with the previous one and trace any irregularities. If the checksum is no longer identical to the previous one, the file is 'corrupt', which means that something has changed in the file.
Choose sustainable file formats
A file format ensures that digital files can be opened while retaining their correct form, content and structure. It also enables the exchange of files and their data. Example formats include PDF and TIFF.
Good file formats are important for preserving your digital archive. Using a standardised, open, widely used and broadly supported file format simplifies the exchanging of files and increases the likelihood of it being possible to open and read these digital files in the future. It also makes it easier to convert the file to a new format.
Store the files both in their original format and an archiving format. You can use DROID to find out which file formats your digital archive consists of. Set guidelines for using file formats and communicate them to all your employees. See the article on Recommended file formats for keeping your digital archive readable for an overview of open and supported file formats. Choose standard formats as much as possible when creating new files.
Organise a digital clean-up day
You can organise a digital clean-up or 'trash' day to consolidate all your digital archive activities. This gives your employees the opportunity to organise the digital classification system and make it accessible. You can read about trash days and how to organise them in the digital clean-up or trash day article.
Back up your digital archive
Make sure the digital archive is properly backed up so that your data is not lost and your efforts to preserve it are not wasted. Read how to make a back-up and what you need to take into account in the article: How do you make a back-up?.
Author: Nastasia Vanderperren (meemoo) with help from Sanne Van Bellingen