Digital preservation group seeks agency feedback

Digital preservation group seeks agency feedback

A federal data preservation working group wants to hear from agencies about their recordable CD and DVD needs. Earlier this week, the Government Information Preservation Working Group posted a survey on the DVD Association Web site posing to agencies the question, 'How long do you want digital storage media to last?'

Once compiled, the survey results will be presented to the Optical Storage Technology Association, said Olibh'ar Tadhg O'Slattra, a National Institute of Standards and Technology technical staff member who organizes the group.

The deadline for survey submissions is May 31.

O'Slattra said the working group would like to see an industry seal-of-approval that ensures a set of disks would last a minimum number of years. By presenting the survey data to disk manufacturers, the group hopes vendors will recognize demand for such a standard.

'We wanted to provide that information to the industry so they would have a line in the sand to aim for,' O'Slattra said.

The survey asks how long groups want their storage media to last and whether a label pledging a specific longevity would factor into their buying decisions.

Today, agencies frequently use optical disks to archive material. NASA's Planetary Data System, for instance, archives NASA space mission data on DVDs, said the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Cynthia Atkinson, who is a member of the working group.

The danger of using optical disks as an archival medium is that agencies have little idea how long the disks might last. NIST has done preliminary studies and found significant differences in the longevity of different media brands, O'Slattra said. NIST is working on a set of testing guidelines that industry could use to estimate the lifetime of their media.

'You may need to preserve for 100 years, but do you really need to preserve in any particular technology for that whole period? Or will you be migrating after a set number of years?' O'Slattra said. Depending on the answers, NIST could develop a test that determines if a disk could last 10 years, 40 years, or some other increment that agencies would find valuable.

The Government Information Preservation Working Group was formed in 2003 to address standards in optical disks for the digital preservation of electronic materials. The group meets bimonthly. The next meeting will be held March 9, O'Slattra said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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