Digital-Preservation-for-Small-Businesses: an introductory guide

    Full details

    Authors & editors

    Digital Preservation Coalition, The [Author]

    Publisher Archives and Records Council Wales
    Year of publication 2022 August

    Medium Digital

    Arts, culture and heritage > Communication
    Arts, culture and heritage > Heritage conservation


    Scope & contentWhy is digital preservation important for businesses?
    Digital information plays a central role in most aspects of our lives. Running a small business is no exception. Important information that would once have been produced on paper is now created, shared and maintained as digital information (for example, annual reports, minutes of meetings, contracts and other legal agreements, publicity or marketing materials, financial returns and correspondence). Small businesses create all these types of digital information and more, and need to ensure they can be accessed for as long as necessary.

    Information may need to be kept for many reasons. You may be required to maintain certain types of information to comply with regulations, some information may provide evidence of decisions or transactions made, other information may simply be valuable in recording the history of your business. Ensuring you can access and use digital information presents very different challenges compared to ensuring ongoing access to more traditional physical resources.
    If you have a handwritten document, drawing or a printed book, you will be reasonably confident that you can store it and reuse it at a later date. Physical items such as these are generally quite robust, and will even hold up well to being put in a cupboard and forgotten about. It would be reasonable to expect that you will be able to go back years later and access, understand and use these materials.

    However, digital materials are more complex and require more proactive management. Take, for example, a text document saved on a rewritable CD. To be able to access and use this document you must first have a computer with a CD drive, and a compatible piece of software installed that will allow you to open the document and display it on screen correctly. Computer hardware and software are constantly changing, and newer versions are not always fully compatible with earlier products. You also need to consider the longevity of the media on which your content is stored. Rewritable CDs are surprisingly fragile and susceptible to data loss, so there is no guarantee that your document will still be accessible at all. If your CD was put in a cupboard and forgotten about, we would have much lower confidence in being able to retrieve and use the information in the future.

    Digital preservation is a term used to describe the activities that are carried out to mitigate the risks to digital content over the long term. It is ultimately about enabling access to digital content, both now and at some unspecified point in the future. Though digital preservation might seem quite a specialist activity, the advice contained within this guide focuses on common sense management of digital information and highlights actions you can incorporate into your day-to-day working practices in order to have greater confidence in your ability to manage and preserve the valuable information that you hold.

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