Is the Digital Dark Age Looming Behind the Cloud?

As a new transatlantic fibre optic system for high capacity connectivity is being laid between New Jersey and Ireland, large enterprises on both sides of the pond are preparing take advantage of the extra bandwidth from the major cloud service providers, which will allow them to further build out their cloud infrastructures.

As well as using the cloud to offer new services, many companies will begin to use the cloud to store their intellectual property, including digital content containing their corporate histories, as well as important day to day information and those kept for compliance.

[easy-tweet tweet=”In the mad dash to cloud, companies are neglecting to address challenges presented by long-term digital asset retention” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

However, in the mad dash to the cloud, some companies are neglecting to address the challenges presented by long-term digital asset retention. Migration plans have become very sophisticated and systematic, but it’s important to distinguish between the requirements for cloud based service delivery, and the unique requirements of retaining digital assets stored in the cloud for longer periods.

Your Digital Transformation Time Machine 

The cloud is as good for storing digital content as it is for service delivery because it’s safe and it’s durable: most cloud providers will ensure that multiple copies of everything will be stored in multiple locations. But just because digital assets are backed up and accessible via the cloud does not mean that they will be useable for the long term.

Earlier this year, Google VP and Internet pioneer Vint Cerf warned of a “Digital Dark Age”, where our vast archives of digital content could become obsolete simply because they cannot be read by the latest version of software available.

With increased take up of the new cloud power on offer, companies are beginning to realise that cloud storage on its own is not enough. These companies are looking to digital preservation solutions to ensure that their content and their corporate identities are protected and future-proofed for years to come.

The Silver Lining

It’s not to say that the cloud can’t have a role in digital preservation. Indeed it is ideal because it is affordable, durable and highly scalable. Many are implementing cloud based digital preservation solutions not only because they realise they need to mitigate risk, but also to preserve and maximise their brand assets and corporate knowledge in a cost effective way. This is not ‘store and forget,’ but rather a proactive approach to safeguarding critical digital content via a dedicated digital preservation effort in the cloud.

cloud can have a role in digital preservation

CIOs are beginning to understand that a viable cloud based digital preservation project must incorporate budget for the inevitable transition to new file formats as and when needed. Beyond this, there must also be the capacity to keep both metadata and indices up to date so that files can easily be found when needed.

Many organisations are very focused on storage of their digital assets in the cloud, as well as the quest to ensure files are secure and accessible for the long term – in some cases that could be hundreds of years from now. However, what we are seeing is that it’s not just about deep archival storage, and 100 years isn’t necessarily the critical point that organisations should be worried about.

The growing consensus amongst analysts and the industry is that “long-term” in the digital world now means any record being kept for over 10 years (or indeed any that are already 10 years old). This is down to faster technology refresh cycles that are causing file obsolescence. This requires an active approach to preserving digital information to ensure that vital records are findable, usable and readable when required.

[easy-tweet tweet=”We now require an active approach to preserving digital information” user=”dPreservation and @comparethecloud” usehashtags=”no”]

Business is waking up to the challenge. As we see an increase in spending on IT cloud infrastructure, the challenge of how to properly manage and safeguard long term  electronic records (whether permanent or not) across the full information lifecycle will only become more prominent. With a little effort, the Digital Dark Age may never see the light, and the digital assets living in the cloud will not only be easily accessible, but also protected and future-proofed for generations to come.

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