Scary stuff Larry.  In my opinion 0.0000% loss is acceptable.  What if the
one thing that you go back to look at years down the track is the very thing
that got lost?  Don't computers do data verification to ensure 100% (and I
mean perfectly 100, not 99.999)?  They can!  They should.  I'd be surprised,
no, scratch that, I'd be disappointed (once again) if they don't.  I
wouldn't be surprised.  Human stupidity and laziness should, by now, cease
to surprise me.  However, I guess my cynicism has not completely killed my
optimism.  And I hope it never does.

And on the issue of "paperless": whilst I agree that paperless is more or
less inevitable, I am far from convinced that it is reliable or wise.  But
further comments can be reserved until a paperless thread starts.

Grahame Gould
Records Manager
Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley
Kununurra, WA

-----Original Message-----
From: Larry Medina [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 5:03 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Preserving Media Forever

>But they harped on security and preservation of media. When questioned
>about long term preservation of a fragile media the answer was to just
>continually migrate to newer media every few years. Then hardware is
>not an issue and the short lifetime of the media is not a problem.

Yeah, y'know you can always count on ONE PERSON (at least) to see the
obvious flaws in the logic of the "solutions" provided by vendors.

Migration isn't a perfect solution, and from migration to migration, you
WILL continually lose information... and if your media (while rated by
vendors as having a 50 year lifespan) is realistically 5-10 years, and your
retention period is 75 years, you'll only have to migrate what, 10
times??  So let's say that optimistically you'll lose 2-3% with each
migration, that would be:

98%, 96, 94, 92, 90, 88, 86, 84, 82, 80%

after 10 migrations, (under best case scenarios)

but if you go with a 5 year lifespan (15 migrations) and 3% loss (per

97%, 94, 91, 88, 85, 82, 79, 76, 73, 70, 67, 64, 61, 58, 55%

So you'll potentially lose somewhere between 20-45% over the required
retention period for some records.

This scenario brings back the question, what percentage of loss is
considered acceptable, and where is this built into the retention periods
specified by law, statute or regulation placed on those required to manage
the information over time?  More to the point, *IS* this level of loss
acceptable, and if not, what's being done to minimize it?

>Every Federal Agency seemed to be there and the Sarbanes Oxley
>concerns, Graham Leach Bliley requirements to respond electronically to
>electronic inquiries, and other legislation plus the government paper
>reduction act requirements make converting to media a given.

What's worse about the PRA and GPEA effects is they are completely
eliminating the existence of paper records... the cornerstone of these
efforts is for processes to eliminate the need for paper at all, and the
only life these records/data/information will ever know is digital.  It
will be recorded digitally, written to disk, copied to some other form of
media and then migrated forward over time for "preservation".  Hopefully,
the lessons learned by the Domesday Project will not be lost.

>Since there was no good answer, everyone seems willing
>to accept the one about migration working for now.

Too true, and while it works, unless someone is using an algorithm to
verify the data after transfer, there's no way to determine how successful
the copy/migration was.  Similar to the comment made by Brent Smith, many
vendors take the "technical viewpoint", but cannot speak from the "records

In a conference call/presentation a few weeks ago, a vendor was asserting
that they have installed many systems where the clients are completely
satisfied with the ability of the system to adequately manage their
information over the required retention periods, and that they have in
place procedures to periodically migrate data to "fresher" media.  When I
informed them that certain of our records have a retention requirement of
"75 years beyond separation of an employee from employment at the facility"
he first argued that the retention period must be incorrect, or that these
must be worst case scenarios... then I informed him that not only were they
correct, but that there are some records subject to potentially longer
retention periods, because they are either presently unscheduled (and
cannot be destroyed until a period is established for them) or because they
are currently under a moratorium and frozen from destruction until after
the moratorium is lifted.  And for those of you who are wondering, yes,
there are Human Resources records in the Federal Contractor arena.

In most cases, EDMS vendors are working with records that have retention
periods between 2 (administrative) and 8 (financial, contract or
procurement) years tops.  And there are the odd cases where there may be
court cases that impact these records and they cannot be destroyed until
after the case has settled, but they aren't looking at 75 years to
permanent.  (BTW, the employee who hires on and works 40 years?  Well,
their records will have to be maintained for 40+75=115 years!!  add these
40 years to the earlier calculation and that's a potential 8 more
migrations and 24% more loss)

>I am only the messenger but they made it sound so simple to "Just
>Migrate." I think they might be using that "Check mark" with the Just
>Do it! as their slogan.

These kinds of numbers are all too common in the Federal Agencies and I
don't care how DoD 5015.2 compliant a system is, the system analysis
doesn't take into account the factors that impact the IMPORTANT part of
what these systems are being procured for.. managing THE INFORMATION that
is entrusted to them.  What I'm waiting to see is more work in the arena on
media longevity and standards for media production and testing of the
software used as "middleware" for data migration... and it would be nice to
see a standard for what is acceptable to the stewards of the records for
data loss in the migration process.  Because the majority of the retention
requirements are being established by the Federal Government, it would seem
that they should be the ones leading the charge here...

>Hey remember that "Paperless Thread" we had a few years ago, we better
>dig that out again.

Feel confident that we will, Hugh... time and time again... =)


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