National Archives prevents lost digital data

The UK National Archives will lead research into how it and government departments can protect stored data in formats that could become obsolete.

The UK National Archives will lead research into how it and government departments can protect stored data in formats that could become obsolete.

A National Archives project will look at options for setting up a shared service across government departments to take, migrate and preserve digital data on their behalf.

Most government information is now created in digital format but, unlike paper records which have life-spans of centuries, electronic records are inherently ephemeral and vulnerable, said National Archives.

Many e-documents, such as web pages, can disappear within days of their creation, and without active preservation those e-documents which do survive become obsolete, on average, within seven years, said National Archives.

But government departments need to be able to access information for much longer than this.

National Archives said data stored on floppy disks can often no longer be read and that databases operating on old and obsolete platforms can stop functioning.

The constant migration of platforms also jeopardises key content on a daily basis, it said.

"Making sure that information remains accessible despite the rapid pace of changes in technology is a significant issue for all government departments," said Natalie Ceeney, chief executive of National Archives.

"There is a real danger of losing critical knowledge vital for today's government business. Effective digital preservation is essential to ensure government's accountability, business continuity and efficiency," she said.

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