Change Text Size: A A A

Procuring Digital Preservation: A Briefing

Release Date: 31 May 2017

In March, the Digital Preservation Coalition organised an event exploring the procurement of digital preservation. On behalf of the Scottish Council on Archives, Meic Pierce Owen, one of our newest trustees, attended the event and has provided the following briefing note that may be of interest to members.

Purpose: To pull together key learning points from the Event.

Background: Author attended to represent SCA & gather information on the topic.

Format and structure: Bullet point key learning points arranged by theme. Detail of further resources also included.

Keynote speaker: Marc Fresko. Case study speakers: Chris Fryer, UK Parliamentary Achives; Lee Hibberd, NLS; Clare Tunstall, Unilver; Neil Jefferies, University of Oxford Bodleian Libraries.

Supplier Sessions: Preservica, Arkivium. Other speakers: Tim Gollins, NRS; William Kilbride, DPC.


  • Digital preservation is a major undertaking
  • Careful and detailed requirement mapping required. This is about establishing what a system needs to deliver and not about defining functionalities in tablets of stone
  • Resource - for the project and on-going storage - needs to be mapped and understood as best as it can be - without an understanding the long-term future it cannot be mapped accurately
  • It requires skillful advocacy within the Organisation to ‘sell’ something that will not see a full assessment of ROI until two or three human generations away
  • Planning to take into account the inevitability of data migration in the future. This relates to content being migrated from any system selected and also to file formats becoming out-moded. Because of this, major file formats only should be used (cross-reference to out-moded format digital storage already in archives - e.g. floppy discs, items in digital languages/versions no longer readily readable). This creates content that will migrate or for which ready and affordable format updates will be available
  • The area is very much developing. Seek out a community for learning. This helps develop a well-informed selection of in-house solutions/selection of supplier/s
  • Be realistic in mapping expectations of a supplier - both in terms of functionality vs. budget and also in respect of current provision to provision being sought (i.e. be real about where you are, and what difference your budget can make to that)


  • Financial resource must be sufficient to achieve what has been mapped as the goal. This can be to create, store, manage or make available digital content (or any combination of this list). If systems are involved, funding the on-going management and development of the system must be built-in to the costs - otherwise the problem of having bought a Ferrari and having no money to service and run it becomes a distinct possibility
  • Peer and mentor support and communities are critically valuable. These communities can be free or paid for. Generally speaking, the more that is paid, the more detailed the resource available (e.g. a comparison of ARA/Cilip/IRMS provision with that offered by DPC and their relative costs). Community should be factored into project and service costs
  • Use suppliers as part of your development resource
  • Look at using a basket of suppliers rather than one, if this better delivers the requirement
  • Try to move away from procurement decision systems that are so heavily loaded in favour of money considerations that a totally off-spec system can win

Technology direction of travel and horizon gazing

  • DP inspires enthusiasm and raises concerns. The enthusiasm is for the potential of content preservation and practicable and evolving access across huge amounts of preserved objects/data. Concerns are around the technology being untried. These concerns are founded on problems that have already been encountered with digital (inaccessible formats, poor emulsions on CDs)
  • Effective and affordable digital preservation is about appropriate storage with routine back-up (daily is not required as digital items do not change) and this linked to the use of filecheck technologies that check items in their storage location and look for changes since last back-up. In this way, any degradation can be spotted early
  • Systems will change more frequently than the big formats. Therefore, much of the ‘game’ at present is about creating robust content that can be moved from system to system
  • SCA-sponsored NRS guidance for local authorities on digital preservation (from the perspective of the business – i.e. helping the business to do things that helps the business and at the same time helps digital preservation) and storage capacity planning will be of value to all
  • Search gets ever cleverer. ‘Find and format’ technologies gather information/digital objects and present them in a user-friendly and appropriate manner (e.g. digitised newspaper reader software that finds relevant articles and presents them as ‘cuttings’)
  • Low cost cloud storage with ‘x day production’ SLA is efficient, affordable and ‘reasonable’ in terms of service delivery. This form of system is being developed by NRS.

More information

Day Overview, programme, speaker slides and full twitter feed from the day (#DPC_procure) available here.