10 Challenges of Digital Preservation

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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The challenges of digital preservation are those unique barriers that hunt digital preservation professionals and organizations worldwide. As we continue to go digital, the risk of losing our valuable digital content grows emphasizing the need for an effective preservation strategy in place.

Organizations should take serious measures in identifying and tackling the difficulties related to preserving data within their business operations. Neglecting this responsibility may lead to the loss of records, intellectual property, customer information and other vital digital assets resulting in legal, financial and reputational actions.

By acknowledging and identifying these challenges such as outdated formats, data migration, and evolving compliance regulations, organizations can develop a plan for preserving their resources.

Listing all digital preservation threats

10 Challenges of Digital Preservation

#1Data lossSecure backup
#2File format challengesUse universal formats
#3Fragility of storage mediaLeverage cloud
#4Rapid evolution of technologyInvest in new tech
#5Lack of fundingSecure funding first
#6AccessibilityImplement data protection policies
#7Security and privacy concernsCompliance with regulations
#8Data migrationClear migration process
#9Lack of standardsStandardize processes
#10Unclear ownership rightsDetermine who owns digital data
This table summarizes the threats of digital preservation.

The challenges of digital preservation are:

1- Data loss

Data loss has the potential to accidently erase or corrupt valuable information which can have severe consequences for organizations and individuals alike. Whether through hardware failures, software issues, cyberattacks, or accidental deletions, the risk of data loss is widely observed in the digital landscape.

The loss of crucial business records, intellectual property, customer databases, historical documents, or personal memories can result in financial losses, legal complications, and reputational damage. This underscores the pressing need for robust data backup, redundancy, and recovery strategies within digital preservation efforts.

In a recent study, we discovered that 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster, filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.

2- File format challenges

As technology evolves, older file formats become increasingly difficult to access and read with their related software and hardware. This can make valuable digital content, such as documents, images, or multimedia, effectively unreadable or unusable.

Consequently, both organizations and individuals face the potential of losing their records, artistic works, or important data. To address this issue, it is essential to monitor and migrate content to formats that are more resilient and widely compatible. This ensures that accessibility and authenticity of the content are maintained in the long run.

3- Fragility of storage media

All of these storage mediums, including drives, optical discs, magnetic tapes and solid-state storage are prone to deterioration which can be affected by different factors such as mechanical issues and environmental factors as time passes.

This fragility puts our personal and business digital content at risk of loss. To combat this, our efforts must include consistent migration of data to more durable and reliable storage mediums and control the environmental on these devices as much as possible which will surely expand the lifespan of digital assets.

4- Rapid evolution of technology

One of the fundamental challenges of digital preservation is the creation of strategies that will help organizations maintain their digital info. As technology changes, so do the need for preservation strategies. these strategies need to be updated as new technologies emerge in order to ensure that they can be applied effectively for future generations.

To address this challenge, preservation strategies must not only focus on the protection of digital assets but also include adaptation to emerging technologies and file formats.

5- Lack of funding

Proper preservation demands investments in storage infrastructure, specialized software, skilled personnel, and ongoing resources for format migrations and backups.

Insufficient financial support can lead to difficulties for organizations in implementing preservation measures which will directly affect content and put it at risk of loss. This challenge becomes particularly concerning when considering the preservation of cultural heritage, historical records, and scientific data.

6- Accessibility

Business records of all kinds such as financial documents, contracts, customer data, and analysis reports hold immense value and legal significance to any business entity. If these records are not preserved and made accessible over time to all the authorized employees, it can lead to extreme catastrophic events of any business group.

Ensuring that these records remain accessible requires addressing various preservation issues, including file format obsolescence, storage media fragility, and evolving technology as explained previously.

I personally would recommend giving accessibility a good amount of discussion by different stakeholders in order to provide the best experience possible for users without jeopardizing the ability to take informed business decisions.

7- Security and privacy concerns

Any strategy that needs to be implemented within your business should include robust security measures to prevent unauthorized access or modification of content. However, security measures such as encryption and access control can make it challenging to provide easy and long-term access to authorized users.

Your job is to strike a balance between accessibility and storing digital documents in the most secure and safe digital repository to preserve sensitive information and minimize security breaches.

8- Data migration

This challenge is about the complex process of transferring digital content from one storage medium or format to another to ensure its continued accessibility and integrity. It can be complex and costly and may require the expertise of several teams. However, with the help of proper planning, organizations can overcome.

Neglecting data migration can result in the loss of invaluable records, historical knowledge, and essential information, emphasizing its critical role in ensuring the long-term usability of digital content.

9- Lack of standards

One of the most underrated challenges of digital preservation is the lack of any standard process to identify and define how digital assets should be managed. Without well-established and widely accepted standards for file formats, metadata, and best practices, organizations and institutions may struggle to create effective preservation strategies.

10- Unclear ownership rights over digital information

In the absence of clear and well-defined ownership, it becomes challenging to determine who is responsible for ensuring the long-term preservation of the data, who has the authority to grant access, and who holds the legal rights to make decisions regarding its use.

Clear ownership rights are crucial for establishing accountability and facilitating collaboration among stakeholders in preserving digital information. Addressing this challenge is essential to ensure the effective, ethical, and sustainable management of digital content over time.

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