Information Governance: Why Digital Preservation Should Be a Part of Your IG Strategy

By Robert Smallwood posted 07-05-2015 13:18


In 2013 when I sat down to the task of writing the world's first textbook on information governance (IG) there were no books defining exactly what IG is, how to do it, and what the totality of IG encompasses. After more than five years of research on IG subtopics, I had to pull together the pieces and structure the just-forming discipline of IG.

There wasn't much to go on, but I used key models where possible such as the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM) and E-discovery Reference Model. I also leveraged the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles®, work product from my consulting colleagues in the field, some blogs and articles, and my work from my previous two books on e-document security and electronic records management.

One of the questions I had to ask was: should long term digital preservation (LTDP) be a part of IG?

"Long term digital preservation (LTDP) applies to digital records that organizations need to retain for more than 10 years."

I dove into the details of LTDP and sought out insights from two leading LTDP experts, Charles Dollar and his business partner Lori Ashley. (They ended up contributing the chapter on LTDP in my last two books).

One thing I learned from them is that digital preservation decisions need to be made early in the records lifecycle, ideally before creation.

This means that decisions governing these long term records - such as digital preservation budget allocation, file formats, metadata retained, storage medium and storage environment - need to be made well in advance of the process of archiving and preserving, and the LTDP process can get quite detailed. Here is a depiction of the LTDP process according to the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) Reference Model standard, ISO 14721:Another key consideration is ensuring that your organization moves to open standard technology-neutral formats, so these very tedious but important decisions must be made today to preserve digital documents and information for tomorrow.

Organizations are retaining more and more digital information. Their repositories continue to expand as a result of poor disposition policy execution and the lack of defensible deletion, and the Big Data trend in general.  Organizations also harbor the hope of extracting new insights by applying advanced analytics to their mountains of data.

So LTDP becomes even more important as these repositories grow and age. All this data - these records - cannot simply be stored with existing magnetic disk drives. They have moving parts that wear out. The disk drives will eventually corrupt data fields, destroy sectors, break down, and fail. You can continue to replace these disk drives or move to more durable media to properly maintain a trusted repository of digital information over the long term. Or you can go with an LTDP cloud provider and leave those decisions to them. But you must have a strategy for testing and auditing, and refreshing media to reduce error rates, and, in the future, migrating to newer, more reliable and technologically-advanced media.

So if your IG strategy does not consider LTDP then it is incomplete, and your organization will not be well-prepared to meet future business challenges. Your management can keep 'kicking the can down the road' but it is not in the best interest of the organization, long term. The impact - positive or negative - will eventually come home to roost as a result of the actions you take today.

Most executives ask themselves, "What do I have to do to maximize my bonus this year?" They take a short term perspective. But for the health of the business, you have to ask yourself, "What decision would I make if I owned the business?"


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Robert Smallwood is a keynote speaker, consultant, trainer, and author of 7 books, including the leading text on IG, Information Governance:Concepts, Strategies, and Best Practices (Wiley, 2014). He is a frequent blogger on IG topics, and is Managing Director of the Institute for IG at IMERGE Consulting, at He teaches comprehensive courses on IG and E-records management for corporate and public sector clients.

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