Need info about long term (say 10 years) digital archiving media

By andrejakostic ·
Hi people!
I'm asking a question here for the first time, so don't bite me if I do something inappropriate!

Anyway, to get to the point:
I've been by one of the managers of a small company to think of a way for them to get rid of their paper archives.

So I've been thinking like this:
First they are going to need a scanner to scan all the paper documentation and store it on computers. The access needn't be fast, so removable media are acceptable.

Second, they are going to need some way of having access to the scanned files for at least seven years that is cheap to implement.

I've fixed the first part with a giant multifunction printer which can scan about 20 two sided A4 pages a minute.

Now for the second part. Here computers last for about 4-5 years so even if I assume the there won't a hard disk failure, single computer can't last long enough to meet minimum time length needed.
Next problem is that the company is in a small town in the middle of no-where. The companies IT staff consists of only two guys and they are basically real life versions of ******* Operator From **** and Pimply-Faced Youth. Unfortunately, those two guys are the only IT people in the town so replacing them isn't an option. I've mentioned this because if I'm going to find a solution, it needs to be simple enough for companies other employees to use.

So I took into the account the unwillingness of the companies IT sector and unreliability of commonly used storage media and got as the result DVD-RAM. It's easy enough to store scanned documents on it, it has error checking built in and should last long enough.

Now what I wanted to ask you:
Are there any other alternatives to DVD-RAM? Is there anything important I've missed?

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DVD, Off-site and EDM

by oldbaritone In reply to Need info about long term ...

Two thoughts - first, since this is an archive storage, why bother with re-writable? Do it once, it's the archive copy, and once a DVD is finalized, it's much more difficult for a disgruntled employee to erase. Doubly true because of the IT department you described. Also while you're doing it, you might consider making two copies of everything, and placing the second set in an off-site secure location. "Fire Safes" are for paper, not plastic. Paper can get up to about 700 degrees, as long as there is no oxygen, before it is destroyed. Most plastic melts somewhere around 200-300. Many people learned the hard way when they opened the fire safe after the tragedy, only to find out the backups they thought they had were now just a useless glob of gunk. And the off-site archive is MUCH more difficult for the disgruntled to access surreptitiously.

Second, do you have a budget for this project? You might want to investigate a full-blown EDM (Electronic Document Management) system. There are several good ones, and many of them can OCR the scanned document, and provide index, cross-reference and search functions. If you're starting an archival project, you should consider EDM. Also, there may be a local contract provider who could help you - and that might help you do an end-run around the problem IT guys. Often, "they're busy" anyhow, and the idea of an outside contractor doing something dull like scanning and archiving wouldn't be difficult to sell.

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Thanks for replying!

by andrejakostic In reply to DVD, Off-site and EDM

I was mostly interested in DVD-RAM over DVD-R because I had better experience with them. Basically, it's difficult here to get a constant supply of high quality DVD-R and I've seen a lot of the cheap ones fail after few years, even when properly stored. On the other hand the build quality of DVD-RAM disks available here seems to be more or less constant and higher than the quality of DVD-Rs.

Good point about off-site archive. Although I read about the benefits of using it several times, it completely slipped my mind.

On the topic of electronic document management systems, could you point me in a direction of one of them, so I could use it as a starting point? We already have some sort of OCR software, but I might be able to convince the owner of the company in benefits of a dedicated system.

And just one more thing. You mentioned melting point for plastics. What degrees did you use? Celsius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin?

Again, thank you for giving me some more ideas!

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by christianshiflet In reply to Thanks for replying!

For EDM software, check out Westbrook Technologies. Their Fortis software sounds like it would work for your needs to scan, archive, and index your documents. They also offer setup and migration consultants, it you can stomach the cost and truly wish to avoid any on-site IT staff.

So, you could use some form of on-site storage (NAS device, perhaps) for the live scanning and searchability and burn archives to DVD media as a long term backup (maybe break your documentation into annual or quarterly chunks to make this easier). Verify your media every couple of years and re-burn any problem media if needed from the live storage or use something more stable, as you mentioned, such as DVD-RAM.

As for safes, the point about fire safes is valid. There are, however, media safes designed specifically for plastic and magnetic media protection. They work well as long as they are physically latched and locked.

Let me know if that helps or you have further questions. Thanks.

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