Understanding digital archiving
Crown Records Management have shared content from their Vault Podcast Series, and we'll be publishing more content in the coming weeks. This episode episode sees Crown's digital transformation sales lead interview Commercial Account Director from Preservica Nathan Vooght.
You can listen now to a podcast version here.
Kevin: Excellent, so digital archiving what is that all about?
Nathan: Digital archiving is really new area of IT and its only really in the last decade or so that it’s become an established requirement in its own right. This tails back to the national archives who ten years ago came to us with a project. They realised that they had a lot of content and wanted to make sure that they could avoid file obsolescence. They needed a way of transitioning, taking these old file formats and really making sure that they’re constantly preserved for the future.
Kevin: Can you share an example of a solution you’ve provided to a client in terms of gaining access to older content?
Nathan: So recently we worked with Transport for London (TFL), they needed to store content on a number of pieces of equipment. So something that hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people use on a daily basis is their escalators. The blue prints and health and safety documents need to be stored for over sixty years, as that’s the lifespan of an escalator in London. Being able to put this information into Preservica, make sure that its constantly revalidated and is fully accessible in the future is absolutely critical. It may not need maintenance for twenty years and by this point the original engineers could no longer be working for TFL. So you need to make sure the manuals, all the work around it, right down to the geological surveys are preserved and can be accessed at any point as well.
Archiving new technology
Kevin: So if a senior board level person working in financial services is having conversations on slack or instant messenger, can Preservica help preserve the full spectrum through digital archiving?
Nathan: When it comes to new forms of communication, these are areas we are moving into and are looking at ways to preserve. Historically the main requirement has been around traditional content and by traditional I mean business documents, Jpegs and PDFs. The recognised formats like TIF right the way through to AV files, so MP4, MP5 we are also looking at. Content harvesting is the really interesting area of how preservation will adapt and evolve over time. This is for instance if you look at a great example of Twitter. There are very important, very senior, incredibly powerful people who love Twitter, maybe love it a bit too much! Essentially there are regional legislations which are in place so you have to preserve online communications. You can’t delete it and so being able to harvest from Twitter and keep that communication is important. If you’re in the public eye you’re never essentially off the clock. I wouldn’t say the whole twitter harvesting thing is absolutely critical at the moment. When you look at different content management systems, how do you ingest from different document management systems already have in place? How do you pull that information into Preservica so it becomes more of a seamless process?
Currently digital archiving is a man managed process but if we’re looking at compliance and criticality you need to automate that. You need to make sure that it is as slick and quick as possible without too much intervention.
And so then the archivist or the records manager is curating and their taken care of. So their role becomes much more business value orientated rather than business critical.
The evolution of the archive manager
Kevin: Is this a parallel to the evolution of the role of the records manager, with new young born digital archive managers coming into the organisation?
Nathan: I would definitely agree with that. I think archivists as a group are going through an evolution. Working within document automation or document capture there’s a predisposed idea that they don’t have much exposure outside of that. There’s a perception that their value isn’t necessarily recognised even within large organisations. However, I think that is changing hugely, especially around the newer ideas coming into archival digital archivists and GXPR archivists. These are people not afraid of IT, not afraid of new technology and they’re coming in and shaking things up.
They’re coming in and saying ‘well look these solutions exist now and we need to get them in place. This isn’t something that we can wait for a decade we should already be dealing with this’.
That is helping massively with building the profile of an archivist and how critical their role is to an organisation. Likewise the actual role of archivists as you said is evolving, that role is bleeding into records management now. There is a blending of roles happening. You do come across more and more people who have a hybrid role. They’re now not only dealing with the immediate one to seven year records, records retention and disposition of those. They’re also answering the question ‘what do we do with anything that has a lifetime over ten years?’. Look at mortgage documents or life insurance policies, anything around financial communications, this needs to be stored. So they’re having to learn from both sides. Its a really exciting time. The more businesses recognising the value of an archivist and digital archiving, the greater their profile. More and more jobs are being advertised for this and more and more archives themselves are being started within an organisation. They’re no longer outsourcing, no longer just sending dump files of content to the national archives. There’s also more saying ‘we should be doing this ourselves’ and actually gaining the value from it, while also protecting themselves in the long term.
2019 buzzwords and trends
Kevin: So just finally, we touched on many different areas of digital transformation and digital archiving. GDPR has been a big buzzword certainly this year, what can we look forward to in 2019? Around the work that you do, what is going to be the big buzzwords and trends?
Nathan: I definitely agree that GDPR has been done to death but I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon! We’ve now transitioned to a period where we’re seeing the results of GDPR. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is now releasing figures on how many people they have taken to court. How many people they’ve warned and how many organisations they’ve supported. They’re not the big bad guys in this scenario, it’s much more about supporting records managers and archivists. Their role is educating, so now we’re actually going to be looking at what that means in the real world. There are organisations which are quite nefarious in their methods who just don’t care about GDPR. They will be found out and dealt with.
On a global scale because an organisation deals with Europe or the UK there’s still going to be more around the immediate impacts.
Likewise you see many regions which are now taking on the aspects of GDPR. Creating their own legislation based off of the GDPR principles and the articles within. In terms of buzzwords, I tend not to look too far out. I’m not technical so my understanding is much more of a laments understanding but ideas around robotic process automation is really interesting. You have companies that have digitised all of their documents, some of them are now paper free. They’re now looking at how they can automate quite complex human processes using mirrored process automation. How that relates in to AI and actually mimicking the human to teach the robot, that for me is really interesting. We are looking at these areas as well and seeing what lessons can be learned from the technology. This is further out from the adoption cycle but I think those two at least are the main ones. Then we’ll see what happens around GDPR and what the actual results are. I think everyone is now waiting to really see what the fall out was. Whether it was – I don’t want to go too far down it – was it Y2K or did it actually have a genuine impact.
Kevin: Watch this space! Nathan Vooght thanks very much
Nathan: Thank you.
Banner image: Northern Line Extension: Lowering of the tunnel boring machines. Copyright John Zammit