It is amazing to visit the Europe and the Mediterranean regions, exploring the ancient ruins in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey. The architectural accomplishments of the past and how these structures have survived these many years is astounding. When you stand amongst the ruins and see major portions of these ancient buildings still standing, knowing that the design was by human not software, and that the writings and carvings have been preserved and interpreted so that all can understand their meaning, it is all the more impressive. This led me to think about our current times and the question of what will it be like centuries from now, and what will remain of our existence?
Will the infrastructures we put into place today, stand up to the tests of time? Will our information stores still be available and more importantly, accessible? The ancients documented many things through stone carvings, etchings and paintings that have endured the tests of time and they provided keys to unlock the mysteries of their meaning through translation tools like the Rosetta Stone. So what about your technology infrastructure and file formats? Are you planning for the preservation of your information assets and transformation of your infrastructure?
In my view, the ancient civilizations were well aware that in order to preserve their history and transfer their knowledge to future generations, adaptation and translation to emerging languages was essential. Long term preservation of their information with a means to translate to a common form was part of the plan, thus the creation of the Rosetta Stone. You need to think in the same way as the ancients, in that years from now, information that is vital to your organization must not only be made available but accessible. Additionally, you need to look at what you currently have, determine the value of that information, and update to today’s standards as a first step in your preservations efforts. Do you still have information created in Word Perfect, Lotus 123, or some other application from the past? If so what is in those files, can you access that information, and how can you transform it into a useable format of today?
You need to look toward the future and prepare for transitional migration to newer formats and media. Information preservation is an essential part of any information management environment and should be part of yours. If as an organization, you are ready to move forward with preservation planning but are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started. Don’t wait until it is too late and that information is lost forever.