Preserving Data for Posterity

E-mail Melanie Martella

Once again, NIST is developing a standards roadmap, although this time it isn't for the Smart Grid, it's for preserving digital data for the long-term. At the U.S. Workshop on Roadmap for Digital Preservation Interoperability Framework at the end of March, experts in digital data preservation will meet to hammer out a digital data preservation interoperability framework.

More power to those involved, say I, because if you thought we were awash in data now, it's just going to get worse. It's not just the ever-increasing production of new data that needs storage and retrieval, there's also been a concerted effort to get archives of images and materials online and accessible, too. And while getting all of those data online is no picnic, the additional challenge lies in making sure that the materials remain accessible, even as storage and retrieval technologies evolve.

There's a truly startling statistic listed in the information about the workshop: "A recent study by the International Data Corporation has shown that the amount of digital data being produced had risen to 281 exabytes (EB, 1018) in 2007 and estimates the total amount of digital information will grow at a rate of 58% per year, reaching 1610 EB by 2011!" That is a very, very large amount of data.

The U.S. workshop is one of two such beasts, the second is an international forum on the topic, taking place in early April in Germany and called the 1st International Digital Preservation Interoperability Framework (DPIF) Symposium. Take a gander at the speakers for both events—they represent national archives, national science and technology agencies, libraries, laboratories, research centers, and technology companies. In other words, entities that already have had to figure out how to handle and store large amounts of data that need to remain accessible for, in some cases, an indeterminate period of time. The National Archives isn't going to just start clearing out the old stuff to make way for the new, after all.

The results of these roadmap development efforts may also help us as we move forward, generating our own reams and reams of data. If pervasive computing and pervasive sensing become a reality, the lessons learned in workshops such as these will serve us very well indeed.