Let's think about this: Beinecke Library's Digital Preservation Guideline

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University has 8 guideline for Digital Preservation. Authors' Guideline for Digital Preservation, has some food for thought that will help me understand some general ideas of about preserving my digital files. It is good general advice, that will put me on the right path.

1.     Save old media and files.  They say,” Even if files are unreadable, or hardware is obsolete, repository staff may be able to recover files and new technology may enable staff to recover files in the future.” Ok. This I have done to an extent in the past. I have lost some things when I put my information on an external drive and than the external drive stopped working. But I also still have my old computer’s files on my present computer.

2.     Back up your files. “Maintain security copies of digital materials in case your                  computer is stolen, your hard drive crashes, or your records become corrupted. I have learned this the hard way when only recently my phone was stolen along with two years of those photos taken on my phone. Luckily I had printed off a lot of them, but I have learned the lesson of backing up my phone.

3.     Name your files Consistently. “Document names can help others identify and retrieve files. A file naming structure may include some or all of the following elements: title, type, version number, date (in year-month-date order), and file extension. For example: perfumedraft1.doc.“ This is good advice. Figuring out a naming system will be one of those things I will have to think about what will work best for me, and I want to way my options.

4.        Organize your files “This structure should be consistent with the organization of any paper records you have, or records in other media, so that all records related to the same activity or subject, or of the same type, can be identified as part of one conceptual grouping.” This is good advice. Structure will be another topic that I don’t take lightly and I want to be able to be able find something that works for me, but is still easy to use.

5.        Make sure your information doesn’t become obsolete.  “When parts of the technological environment in which you are working begin to become obsolete, they should be upgraded to the most advanced technology available according to your needs, and all digital materials inside and outside the system should be migrated to the new technology. When replacing hardware, it is important for the replacement hardware to have capabilities at least equal to the hardware it is replacing.” This takes updating software regularly, which I admit I put off more than I should. And being more diligent about this is important.

6.         Use software that is easy to share files “Software should be able to accept and output files in a number of different formats. The ability to interact easily with other technology is called interoperability. It will make it easier to access your materials and to move them to other systems.” This means that I need to choose software that is not obscure and uses formats that are either widely known or open sourced. I don’t have to really worry about his much. Most of my software is mainstream and my files are widely used: Doc, Jpeg, Tiff, PDF, etc.

7.        Select software that adheres to standards. “This is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your material will last. Standards endorsed by national and international organizations are best. If these do not exist for your materials, you can help ensure longevity by adopting software that is widely used. “ Similar to 6. I don’t believe my files do not meet national and international standards of mainstream organizations. I don’t think I have to worry about this much.

8.         Select software that presents materials as they originally appeared. ”Materials should keep the same look over time to be fully intelligible and accessible. When replacing software, make sure the new software will be able to read your older materials in the software format in which you kept it and display it in the same form in which it was originally displayed. In other words, new software should be backward compatible with older software.” This is important and truthfully, when I update my Word software, I assume that it will. Maybe this is not something I should assume. Maybe, I should be not aware about compatibility of my old files and new software. Mmmm.

This is helpful to think about these issues as I go through this process of organizing my electronic records. I hope it provides some food for thought for you too. Next we will tackle folder organization and be reminded what a mess I have created.