In our throw-away society obsolescence is fast becoming a problem that we will all face. Think about when you were younger (ahh the simpler time in your life) when technology was not the driver of all work places.
Remember fondly a time when looking through a View-Master was the coolest thing you could do in a library, a golf ball typewriter was a thing to be jealous of in the workplace or at home
and your portable record player meant you had to carry a box of records with you to entertain?
Well these things all have one thing in common, they have suffered obsolescence.
As a digital educator it is paramount that you are aware of the tools and software you are using and the interoperability with other systems in case you are required to move your content such as has been the case in the past for example Google closing down one system and replacing it with Google+. It is useful to have your eggs not in one basket for this reason and to be familiar with multiple systems.
I have been researching for my INF537 final case study, which has involved me pulling a wealth of data from webinar systems around user interaction times, number of rooms created etc. I needed a set of data from last year, but am unable to access it, why? Simply put last year due to a DNS attack on the server (we are all now familiar to that term thanks to the Bureau of Statistics and the Census) we had to use the USA server to access our webinar technology. This simply means that the valuable statistics is no longer available to me as we had a window of use and then all data was purged from their system. It beggars belief that this can happen in 2016, in the age of enlightenment when digital preservation of data should be in the topic of ICT minds. But no they forgot to request this data at the time so it is gone forever.
Onto another point I was in a meeting today and thought about these in relation to a problem that the team were discussing; the need to keep backups of the online courses for compliance. It got me thinking of that old issue of is you keep a backup and the system moves how long is that backup relevant and what destroy provisions are around how long we keep these backups. This is a critical issue for the government agency I work for as we now will be servicing the 5 TAFEs and all their online course and managing backups. There is a finite amount of space so how long is too long?
Another key problem is that many of the TAFEs are moving from one LMS to another, so that then leads to questions around currency and the longevity of courses.
To me it begs the question if we have to keep these course backups for compliance why is there little or no action around this?
I work with many Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) across Western Australia with the implementation of elearning systems to support their teaching and learning cohorts.
One key part of a strategic implementation is to ensure that everyone “is singing from the same hymn book” and understand the reason for the system.
Do not leave people behind and make sure no one is marching to the beat of their own drum, as it can be a huge problem later for organisations.
Often with the implementation of new systems the baby is thrown out with the bath water with the need to everyone to be working in the same system as soon as practicable.
Trainers are often the ones who have to do the migration work on an already full workload. But at the outset a set of rules around the course development and final archiving need to be considered at length so that a proper preservation schedule is put into place to ensure that the organisation meets the compliance levels required.
This can happen in a few different ways
Online storage: materials stored on fileservers or other hardware which is immediately accessible to the enquirer via a PC or smart device that is connected to the internet. Companies offer free storage, sufficient for personal files but you must be mindful that if it is stored on the internet then it could become accessible to anyone. Commercial and government organizations are also looking closely at the option – but there considerable risks involved for organizations concerned with long term preservation – after all, you are placing your data into the hands of another organization and trusting them to do the right thing. This could outweigh the cost savings for organizations.
Offline and near-line or near-online storage is where materials are stored on devices that are not continuously connected to the computer network or internet. Data can be stored on magnetic tape and might be stored off site in secure storage for long term safety.
Removable media are such things as flash drives (USB sticks) DVD or CDs, removable hard disk drives these are often be removed from the network and stored either locally for easy availability. As these are ‘offline’ devices the content is not available for multiple users.
Tips for storage
Conduct regular integrity checks of your digital resources to avoid inadvertent change, deterioration or data loss. Use a checksum for this (will be outlined later).
Refresh you storage devices because of obsolescence.
Store your stage devices in an appropriate location, such as somewhere low in dust and humidity with very little temperature variation.
Points to consider:
- It is extremely important to preserve your files in formats that will be robust to survive obsolescence. Consider restricting types of files you are archiving and think about open source, portable and high quality.
- File transfer/exchange to others needs to be considered. It is wise to choose file formats that are supported by a wide range of software across a variety of platforms.
- Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a meta-language that lets you design your own markup language. XML tags are not predefined unlike in HTML.
A really simple strategy is IDOS
Identify: What do you want to save? Locate the files and identify EVRYTHING that you want to collect.
Decide: what is most important to you as it is not practical to try and save everything.
Organise: The content
Save copies: Save them in different places.
In a nutshell to help preserve the now for later (rule of thumb not just for the online courses I started talking about) it is helpful to think about the following:
- Build your knowledge about preservation and storage requirements;
- Talk to others about your preservation needs;
- Plan your strategy for digital preservation;
- Identify what you want to save;
- Decide how you are going to save;
- Organise what you are saving and build appropriate metadata or information around it; and
- Save copies in different locations.
No matter what type of file you want to save they all require the same essential preservation strategy. We can preserve our digital possessions to keep them accessible for years to come, but we have to archive and actively manage them and work through upgrades and migrations sensibly to we can ALL survive.
Library of Congress (2016). Digital Preservation. Retrieved 1, October, 2016, from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/
Stuart, Katherine and Banks, Lauren (2012) Making ducks walk in a line – the road to digital continuity, Retrieved 1 October, 2014 from http://members.rimpa.com.au/lib/StaticContent/StaticPages/pubs/nat/inForum2011/JohnstonBanksPaper.pdf
Technology obsolescence. (2014). In: Business glossary, 1st ed. [online] New York: All Business. Available at: http://www.allbusiness.com/glossaries/technological-obsolescence/4945098-1.html [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].