Victorian government still faces major storage challenge

Victorian government still faces major storage challenge

Although Public Record Office Victoria has managed to take control over a major area of its current records keeping problems by recently assigning Documentum to develop and implement a digital archive for all Victorian government agencies, it still faces long term storage formatting problems.

Howard Quenault, the VERS (Victorian Electronic Records Strategy) program director at Public Record Office Victoria, spoke as a panel member at the EMC Inform Event yesterday at Darling Harbour Sydney.

He said that the EMC Centera content addressed storage solution will solve some of the archiving problems they have today, but formatting standards need to be brought introduced so that information can be stored for life in the future.

Although he admitted that EMC/Documentum solution will centralise and digitise all of the data information so that it will be easily retrieved from a centralised point and linked to back-up copies, the also cited that problem lies in the advancement of technology. "In theory, we should be able to save a document onto a system and be able to retrieve it back in about 20 years. However, this might not be possible, because by then, the format which it was initially recorded on would have been replaced by an updated version and might not be able to read the old digital document. So the problem is that the hardware and software will change and might not be compatible with old versions.

For instance, some of our workers are making 3-D models of planes. But we are not sure if the technology used to build these models now will still be available in years to come. So digital records might not work on a new system for creating 3-D images.

Part of the problem is realising this issue now and making steps to counter these problems in the future. We are trying to prepare for this by supporting an international body that aims to create standards across the industry so vendors, such as Microsoft, are required to bring out new products that are fully compatible with old digital copies of documents."

He said that the vendors are grappling with this possible archive solution, because it could prevent them from making money. The idea behind new releases is obviously to make money for the vendor by attracting customers to invest in improved facilities, but there are drawbacks in terms of old documents not being readable on newer versions.

"If the industry standards go through, this will mean a fundamental shift in the way they do business. With the availability of open source becoming more and more prominent, this means that desktop providers are beginning to compete over this issue. In the end, we will work with the vendor that can guarantee long-term compatibility and readability for documents. This is the biggest attraction for us at the moment to help us store data safely in the future."

This also applies to video files, PDFs, and digital audio/visual recordings. Quenault believes this is the biggest storage problem they face at the moment, but he believes that because people are listening, albeit reluctantly, it is only a matter of time before vendors will abide by industry standards to create the reality of long-term storage.

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