invention of computer has resulted in the second information revolution.
Computer technologies have changed the way people seek, acquire and use
information. Most of the information available today is in digital form due to
the reason of ease of creation. The world is becoming digital at an astonishing
pace and the public is embracing this digital environment. According to Rafiq (2011)
“the world is experiencing a paradigm shift from analogue systems to digital
ones”.Oltmans and Wijngaarden (2004)
state that these days results of the scientific research are published in
digital form as a rule.
several advantages of digital resources, in comparison to analogue library
materials, the preservation of digital resources is a serious problem. The
continuous growth and development of technology like changes in software
systems, operating systems and hardware systems poses serious problems to the
preservation ofavailable digital resources. Huge amount of records have been
produced in the last decade than any of the previous decade but most of it less
reliable, retrievable or accessible(Duranti, 2010).
to Rothenberg (1998) “the rapid development in different
computer technologies ensures that digital obsolescence will become a problem
in future”. Digital obsolescence
is a situation where a digital resource is no longer readable because the
physical media, required reader, hardware, or software that runs on it is no
longer available. Research Libraries Group through its
survey found technological obsolescence as the greatest threat to successful
digital preservation (Hedstrom & Montgomery, 1998)(Hedstrom
& Montgomery, 1998).Some
authors argue that “digital files are constantly under threat – against the
forces of time, nature, technology and human error, just to name a few
culprits” (Dolan-Mescal, Farwell, Howard, Rozler, & Smith, 2014).The first decade of the 21st century was called
as the decade of digitization and the second decade of the 21st
century is termed as the era of digital preservation (Trehub, 2011; Trehub & Wilson, 2010). According to Cordeiro(2004)the
ever growing literature of digital preservation from the last decade predicts
the challenges of durability, accessibility, maintenance, functionality and
understandability along with long term retention for digital resources.Bennett (1997)
focuses on the risks of digital uncertainty with regards to storage media &
unrestrained technological obsolescence imitated in changes in OS, file
formats, hardware, and software have been recognized as serious threats to the
future of ever growing digital assets.
The purpose of preservation is to protect information of
enduring value for access by present and future generations (Conway, 1990).
According to (Hedstron, 1998)
digital preservation is “the planning, resource allocation, and application of
preservation methods and technologies necessary to ensure that digital
information of continuing value remains accessible/usable.”
Issues in Digital Preservation
Digital objects are
threatened in a number of ways. The continuous changes/developments in formats,
software systems, operating systems, and hardware systems are some of the
technological threats to digital objects. Besides this storage media
fault/failure is also a serious threat to the long term retention of digital
objects. Disaster, accidents and human error are also amongst the key issues in
the preservation of digital resources.The basic issues in digital preservation
are discussed in details in this section.
Technology is in
evolution since its inception. Changes/developments in software systems,
formats, operating systems and hardware systems ensure that digital
obsolescence will take place where a digital object will become inaccessible
due to non-availability of software systems, hardware system and/or readers
that are necessary for accessing a specific digital object.
Storage media fault/failure
Digital storage media
are extremely vulnerable to loss/destruction. The fault/failure of digital
storage media results in loss of huge amount of digital information. Though the
storage media has kept its pace with advancement of technology in terms
becoming smaller in size and bigger in storage capacity but the issues of its
vulnerability is still unanswered.
and human errors
accidents are unpredicted and cause huge loss to human civilization. Digital
resources are more vulnerable to disasters and accidents as compared to other
assets. Natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and tornados etc. and
man-made disasters like fires and wars are serious threats to the retention of
digital resources. These disasters and accidents destroy the whole of digital
collections and lefts nothing for the future generations.
In the current
scenario libraries subscribe electronic journals/databases for providing access
to scholarly communications to their users. Huge amount of funds are spent on
subscription of these electronic journals/databases, but these e-journals are
usually at risk as the termination of subscription (due to any reason) stops
access to the institution. The back issues for which the institution has
already paid huge funds and were accessible previously becomes inaccessible.
Strategies or Possible Solutions
To safeguard the
digital resources for future generations, some strategies like migration,
emulation, media refreshing, replication, encapsulation and digital archaeology
are needed to be adopted. These strategies provide solutions to certain level
for keeping the digital resources accessible over time.
According to (Garrett
et al., 1996), “Migration is
the transferring of data to newer system environments”. Migration refers to
converting the file format to a newer one. According to McCarthy(2008)
“Migration is perhaps viewed in some quarters as the more favorable option,
with the acceptance that some loss of metadata or context will be inevitable”. Hedstrom
states that “better methods for migration of digital materials to new
generations of software are much needed for digital preservation regardless of
breakthroughs in mass storage technologies.”
Migration is a process that involves periodical transfer of
digital files from one hardware and software configuration to another or from
one generation of technology to modern generationof computer technology for the
purpose of preservation/accessibility of digital information for present and future
use. Migration also involves change in the configuration of the underlying
data, not its intellectual content. This process requires continuous investment
for keeping pace with developments in technology to maintain accessto digital
information. Besides its several advantages migration also poses some problems for
digital objects like authenticity, further it also presumed to be time
consuming and expensive method.
Replication refers to ‘possessing two or more facsimiles of
digital objects for the purpose of preservation’. Replication offers a backup
support to digital objects from threats like disaster and accidents like
malicious attacks, and storage media fault/failure etc.Digital files that
exist as a single copy in only one location is presumed to be highly vulnerable
to destruction/loss due to unpredicted storage media fault/failure and natural
disasters like earthquakes, fires and floods etc. Digital objects are expected
to be more secure if they are replicated and kept at different geographical
locations. Walters, Bishoff& Gore (2009) suggest “a network of geographically and institutionally distributed
digital repositories that are adherent to best practices, to avoid loss of
digital resources due to insufficient infrastructure of a single institution
that is geographically homogeneous.”
This proposes that
digital data should be preserved on a stable medium with associated copies of
the original application software, operating system and relevant hardware
devices. This approach actually suggests that the material as well as the
technology need to be preserved. This approach doesn’t seem to be practical as
it is financially unfeasible.
It refers to the preservation of data
in original format and offers to create emulator programs which mimic the obsolete
hardware and software. It targets the technical atmosphere in
which the digital object was created.In other word this is the process of
re-creation of hardware and software environment necessary to access a digital
resource. This concept mainly emphasizes on software related to data.In simple
words emulation does not alter the digital object itself, it only creates an
access version for the file through impersonation by using the existing
technology. Emulation is being advocated to be a
solution for digital preservation(Rothenberg, 1998; J. Rothenberg, 2002). According
to Pozo, Long, & Pearson (2010)
emulation can be a proper choice as compared to migration.
According to (Zierau, 2012)
“the media is the basis for accessing the original stored information,
therefore, the media is essential for all preservation actions”.Refreshing means the
transferring of data from old physical storage media to newer one on periodic
basis which provides solution for avoiding the obsolescence of storage media.Sometimes
new technology is unable to access the older storage medium so, refreshing is
necessary to achieve longevity. Media refreshing also refers to the transfer of
data between two types of the same storage medium to avoid deterioration, e.g.
transferring the census report from older CDs to newer one. Refreshing provides
an ideal solution for avoiding media deterioration.
Data archaeology is
the process of recovery of data later on, using up-graded techniques available
in future.This is essential for that digital information which has not been
migrated but still vital in respective field.In this process data would be
refreshed regularly but no migration would be performed and no software and
hardware would be preserved to be emulated at a later storage.
It means that objects
should be self-describing, in term of requirements for accessibility of
specific digital file. The informationsupplemented with the digital filewill
contain the details of how to understand that object by using logical
structures called "containers" or "wrappers". This method is
usually usefulforcollections that goidle for long time.Encapsulation is
technically considered as the most suitableoption to cover the requirements of
government organizations for preservation of their digital resources(Nelson, Argue, Efron, Denn, &
4.8. Metadata attachment
Metadata means data
about data. Metadata of digital file contains information about the creation,
access rights, restrictions, preservation history, and rights management. Metadata attached to
digital files may be affected by file format obsolescence. ASCII is thought to
be the best durable format for metadata as it is famous.
However, SGML or XML can be used for advanced functionality.
Archiving of Electronic Journals
that have subscribed to electronic journals can secure the long term
accessibility and retention of these journals through archiving. This will help
them in securing access to the back issues of these journals in case of
termination of subscription due to any reason.
As discussed in the
beginning, digital resources have several advantages over the conventional
sources of information in terms of ease of access and creation, but in term of
long term retention and long term accessibility the digital resources have
remained a problem due to the reasons like: storage media
deterioration/fault/failure, hardware obsolescence, software obsolescence, and
accidents/disasters. To secure the digital resources from loss and
inaccessibility, they require special care and attention. Digital preservation provides
certain strategies like migration, emulation,encapsulation, media refreshing
and replication that can secure the digital resources from loss are becoming
After review of literature, the following recommendations have been drawn for
preservation of digital resources:
1. Digital resources
should be migrated to newer version of file format from time to time.
2. Use of open and
widely available formats should be preferred. This will help in getting
independence from proprietary software and will bring uniformity.
3. The digital resources
should be supplemented with information about the software and hardware that is
required for accessibility.
4. The storage media
should be used that is robust in nature.
5. Multiple backup
copies should be kept to avoid loss of digital resources due to storage media
6. The backups should be
kept at geographically distinct locations.
7. Digital resources
should be archived/stored on a cloud service like googledrive, dropbox, and
8. The system should be
secured from malicious attacks with the help of a suitable antivirus software.
9. The organizations
that have subscribed to e-journals should archive these journals to avoid
stoppage of access to the back issues in case of cancellation of subscription.
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