Preservica Logo
by Jon Tilbury

6 ways automated digital preservation changes everything

On World Digital Preservation Day, Jon Tilbury, CIO Preservica, explores how Preservica’s fully automated Active Digital Preservation is opening up new opportunities to overcome the challenges of working with an increasingly diverse, complex, and growing volume of digital content.

November 3, 2022

Data For All, For Good, Forever.

On World Digital Preservation Day, Jon Tilbury, CIO Preservica, explores how Preservica’s fully automated Active Digital Preservation is opening up new opportunities to overcome the challenges of working with an increasingly diverse, complex, and growing volume of digital content. Practitioners deserve more time back to focus on more pressing archival tasks, and not be bogged down by today’s digital deluge.

Automated digital preservation makes digital preservation available to even the smallest institutions across industries. Simply select your policy from a template, modify it as you require, then have your preservation system automatically apply the policy. It’s a huge step forward into the mainstream that also allows file format preservation to be seamlessly embedded into the systems that manage our digital records, such as Microsoft 365.

This type of digital preservation automatically ensures critical information is instantly accessible and actionable over decades, independent of the originating application. It translates to more efficiency, more productivity, and less burden on the workflows of any archivist team, large or small.

Here are 6 ways automated digital preservation changes everything:

1. Ensuring files can always be read over decades

The rise in the volume, diversity, and complexity of digital objects over recent years has led to challenges when it comes to managing and keeping digital file formats up-to-date. It’s an important task to manage those formats so they stay readable and trusted over decades, able to be properly identified and maintained in their current form.

Digital preservation is changing, and users have been demanding simplicity and automation, which requires well-rounded domain knowledge and expertise not limited to select institutions. It’s the reason why Preservica has created a Research & Innovation team with File Format Analysts who are driving innovative improvements to the application platform and working on outreach to collaborate with customers, major institutions, and the wider community to share best-practice and format research.

2. Making sure your files are what you think they are

Automated digital preservation is not just about migrating obsolete formats to newer formats. Before those steps can be taken, you’ll need to know exactly what the file is. This adds a slew of challenges to continuously ensure the files are correctly classified.

The research community has done amazing work building PRONOM, a huge database of file formats and provided tools such as DROID, to identify files. Information is first identified and then properties are extracted to ensure it can be preserved. The challenge is the database and available information about the formats is constantly changing as new formats are released and older format information is revised.

David Clipsham, File Format Analyst at Preservica, has analyzed the continuous improvements to PRONOM and DROID and discovered that these changes mean millions of files characterized in the past now require recharacterization to ensure they are accurately identified.

This constant recharacterization means Digital Preservation is a continuous and dynamic set of workflow activities that require automation. Keeping pace with changing definitions is part of the reason why Preservica is rolling out automated Active Digital Preservation for our Cloud and Enterprise edition customers. The system automatically re-identifies relevant files whenever a change is made, ensuring you have the best possible information on which to base preservation decisions.

3. Making it easy to choose the right preservation format

Once you know which formats you have from a trusted source, it's time to decide what to do with them. This involves choosing what formats you want your files in and for what purposes, either as a preservation "Digital Master" or an access distribution copy.

Preservica offers users high-level options such as “Convert all images to JPEG for access” or “Convert all documents into Open Office for preservation” to streamline the configuration, validation, and processing. You can choose a bespoke policy or configure your system with one of the recommended options, and we apply that to all content in the system.

4. Changing priorities

When you have ingested and migrated it to a format you want, you might think the job is done. However, as with the format database, change is inevitable and managing it needs automation at scale.

The recommendations from Preservica sometimes change as our File Format Experts further evaluate existing tools and explore new tools to add to the system. Changes in corporate policy or changes in the outside environment may also change users' minds about the format they want to use. All of this is made worse by a constantly changing technical landscape and content creators always coming up with the “next greatest thing.”

This could be quite a headache, but Preservica’s Active Digital Preservation will update everything to fit in with the new setup. This could mean a few files need updating, or a few million—but Preservica can cope, making sure information is always in an up to date format with best practice and your requirements.

5. Making digital preservation available to everyone

Until recently, the expertise of digital preservation was tied up in the proprietary knowledge of individual organizations instead of being shared with the community—but things are changing. The availability of Preservica’s recommended format policies means the need to have an expert, or even the need to constantly monitor, is becoming dispensable.

Preservica accesses expert knowledge from around the world, whether from practitioners, academics, or subject matter experts, to ensure that all users can benefit from the entire community’s expertise. This means digital preservation is available to everyone. Simply pick a configuration and allow Preservica to bring your content into line, or click “accept details” and let Preservica constantly apply best practice to your content.

6. Digital Preservation goes mainstream

Automating digital preservation means simply selecting a policy and letting the system do the rest. This means it can be embedded into other systems, such as Microsoft 365. The system ensures information is always in updated formats, but still allows users to interact with 365 for retention and search.

The new generation is part of Preservica’s ongoing mission to make digital preservation simple, automated, and available to organizations of all sizes.

Automated digital preservation is a seamless part of the systems that manage digital records and is proving to be a key milestone in the history of digital preservation’s jump into the mainstream.

Automating digital preservation well into the future

World Preservation Day continues to connect the digital preservation community and celebrate the positive impact digital preservation has. We are excited to be bringing more life to Preservica’s vision to make powerful automated digital preservation a streamlined and embedded part of how organizations create, manage, and protect critical digital content in a dynamic environment where best practice is constantly changing.

What if you could package up all this expertise and combine it with a digital preservation platform that would automatically apply the latest file format recommendations to ensure files are always in readable formats – just by selecting from a list of policies?

It’s no longer what if – but now you can – with Preservica’s new generation of Active Digital Preservation.

Here’s to making the sharing of file format preservation policy and its automatic application the gold standard for all the World Digital Preservation Days to come.

Register here to meet the new generation of Active Digital Preservation and see Preservica’s new archiving and discovery software in action!