In today’s digital environment, businesses use electronic documents more than ever. While this does increase access, it does not eliminate preservation and stability obstacles. In fact, digital documents can become obsolete much faster than paper. In order for a digital document to be accessible, the software that is able to read it must be up-to-date. Therefore, the digital document’s stability is dependent on evolving technologies. Think about all of the file formats you use on a daily basis – Lotus Notes, Word, Rich Text, JPEG, and so on. Now think about how often these applications require updates to remain functional. If an application can’t keep its head above water in this constantly evolving technological world, digital documents can become inaccessible, and essentially sent to the file graveyard.

Data Migration

Data migration is the practice of moving data from one electronic location to another. This may be necessary for a variety of reasons including server maintenance and upgrades, disaster recovery precautions, and/or database vendor changes. This process involves taking the information within a document or system (data) and moving it to a completely different system (database). Data Migration is an important strategy for preserving the actual information and context of documents.

File Conversion

File conversion practices may be operated for similar reasons as data migration, but involve different processes. Rather than focusing on the information within a document, file conversion focuses on the actual medium the information is contained within. There are several applications available to both individuals and organizations that focus on converting file formats to avoid obsolescence. Companies can utilize this practice to ensure that digital document backups are created in a variety of different accessible formats.

Needs Assessments and Planning

Companies and organizations should regularly conduct file format needs and risks assessments to understand what formats they need and why they need them. Some aspects to take into consideration may include the importance of file information, frequency of retrieval, number of users altering the file, and locations for file storage. Determine if there are any legal requirements that make it necessary to save the file in an unaltered format. Decide whether the structure of the content is important to preserve, or if the content alone needs to be preserved. Once a needs assessment has been conducted, companies can turn to picking out the software applications they want to utilize for their documents. It is best to use widely adopted software to ensure long-term functionality. If companies want to stay ahead of file format obsolescence, they should evaluate their file format policies and review current software trends regularly. This is a key component for records management plans, and companies should use this practice to prepare for future decades and keep their files alive.

For assistance with file conversion and data migration, contact Zasio today.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.