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Subject: Electronic media stored with paper records at a storage facility
From: Hugh Smith <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 16 Nov 2008 23:44:46 -0500

text/plain (144 lines)

> Sent: Jeff Fronius  Friday, November 14, 2008 11:45 AM
> Subject: Re: Electronic media stored with paper records at a  
> storage facility
> James-
> I would be more concerned over a potential fire than the lifespan  
> of the
> media...

Now there is a man with my mindset.  What about fire?  Numerous  
discussions we have had over the years have spoken to the requirement  
of the records manager: to first and foremost ensure the survival of  
the records (in what ever format) until the end of the retention  
period. A fire in the corporate environment can ruin that company.  A  
fire in an offsite environment has the potential of a large hurricane  
or natural disaster. Thousands of companies affected by one  
catastrophic event.

When I entered this arena of secure records about 30 years ago, if I  
could find the records manager, I could find a records vault.   
Protecting vital records was taken very seriously.  To many today,  
vital records is just another classification with no special strategy  
of protection. NFPA 232 still talks about protecting records in  
vaults.  But few are familiar with the Standard.

If you remember the huge furor a few years ago about "Digits to  
Dust!", then our current discussion is relevant. The simple fact of  
aging can cause records to become destroyed.  It was for this reason  
that "Spoliation" was written into Sarbanes Oxley.   A clever CEO,  
using a delaying tactic on litigation, could simply continue to store  
his media in known deficient storage conditions until those  
conditions made the records useless. Or he or she could switch to a  
new platform (software & equipment) making the older media obsolete  
and force the plaintiff to spend huge sums of money to migrate the  
data or transform it into a document that was readable again.  Thus  
dramatically increasing the cost of the lawsuit. Or the simplest and  
safest method to ensure they never make it to discovery, arson.

Since many records managers have abrogated their role from the  
protection side, the mantle is picked up on the IT side of records  
management.  While there are no statistics to back this up, I think  
it is a safe conjecture that more records are protected by IT with  
their media sets than paper is on the RM side. There are probably 200  
companies specializing in media vaulting on the offsite storage side  
and several thousand proprietary internal programs that vault either  
their media or their servers. And, the vaulting of data centers is an  
increasing trend for protecting large volumes of information.

SNIP from Fred Grevin

>  Life expectancies of 10, 17, and 28 years are
> estimated for storage conditions of 72 F & 50% RH, 68 F and 40% RH,  
> and
> 65 F & 30% RH, respectively. In these examples, both the humidity and
> temperature have been reduced simultaneously. However, it is not
> necessary to reduce both to see a benefit in media longevity.  
> Either the
> temperature or humidity can be reduced with benefit to the media."

One of the key selling elements of offsite media vaulting is that  
they provide an ideal storage environment with low humidity and low  
temperature; but even more importantly this storage condition is held  
constant thus eliminating cycling of the media.

> "You can currently purchase WORM disks which are guaranteed for 100
> years. However, considering the explosive growth of CD-ROM and CD-R
> technologies, it is doubtful that WORM technology will be viable in 10
> more years [this was written in 1996]. WORM disks will undoubtedly
> outlive WORM technology."

If one interviews a computer engineering professor and they define  
their goal with designing a new computer, or technology; one of the  
key design elements is sustainability of that platform. Yet this is  
the biggest failure of computer technology.  They never leave well- 
enough alone.  So no matter what the NIST states about media  
stability, the NIST cannot speak to the fact of whether that media  
will even be popular in five years.

They say that less than 30% of computer generated documents ever see  
paper.  That number continues to move downward. (Paperless, never;   
less paper in the total process, assuredly)

It is this fact that IT will move from servers and tape to virtual  
servers and virtual tape, to disk to disk, to Cloud Computing that  
make them unreliable without RM supervision.  With all the gains in  
computing they still have not taken even one more step towards being  
trustworthy.  Cloud Computing is the ultimate in an untrustworthy  
destination as it mixes software and data and records copies in a  
million places with no real tracking ability.  Good luck on that data  
map. :~)

But never fear just as it gains popularity some new technology will  
make it obsolete.  IT and technology remind me of the fable about the  
scorpion and the frog. The scorpion asks the frog to save it by  
swimming it to shore, as it is drowning.  The frog says "No you will  
sting me!" To which the scorpion responds "Oh No! I would not sting  
you because you would die and I would then drown." As the frog is  
swimming the scorpion to shore, it stings him!  Because that is the  
nature of scorpions.  And so it is with computer technology and  
software.  It is their nature to continually change as that is what  
creates sales revenue and profits.  And the mess they leave behind  
does not impact their own books.

This I think this is a key point for records managers to position  
themselves as that bridge between technology, records management and  
a firm stance for potential pending litigation.  I believe that  
records managers need to be part of the overall plan to protect the  
records even if it is only by directing the vaulting of offsite media  
in a proper environment.  Environmentally, and with fire protection  
consistent with fragile data media and with tracking software that  
assists in the continual data mapping of the information assets.   
This is the role I see cutting edge records managers evolving towards.

I was impressed at this year's ARMA Conference with how savvy RM's  
have become. The RM's I visited with in my booth really seemed to  
grasp the new roles open to them in RM.  Maybe this evolution will  
lead RM back into vaulting records again.  One can only hope.

Hugh Smith
FIRELOCK Fireproof Modular Vaults
[log in to unmask]
(610)  756-4440    Fax (610)  756-4134

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