So I had a couple of incidents occur to me recently that reinforced to me the importance of implementing and practicing archiving practices in this digital age. Each was a mystery in that it involved a bit of sleuthing, nothing that rose to the level of Sherlock Holmes, but the smaller types of mysteries that impact us all in some manner, shape, and form (like where did I leave my car keys) in the information-rich world we now live in.
I call the first mystery, The Case of the Absent-minded Artist and the second is The Case of the Misplaced Log-in. I will describe each in a moment and how they pertain to information archiving, but first, a little background on archiving itself.
My go-to source for information on archiving is the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation group, which is a clearing house for information on archiving digital records. The Library supports National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) that is developing standards for digital preservation. The table to the right is from the NDSA’s The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation: An Explanation and Uses. The element I want to talk to is the Level 1 cell for the first row, Storage and Geographic Location.
This recommendation is straightforward; maintain at least two copies of all important digital records on separate devices. Basically, this recommendation harkens back to the old adage, Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you store all of your information in one location, say your computer’s hard drive then you are running the real risk of losing it all if that hard drive fails. Save it to some external drive, or, in the case of the second point in the chart, if the data is on external storage device then you should save it to a second storage site, such as your hard drive or the external drive that you dedicate to archiving. This is a process I have been trying to make a habit of, but I’ve been getting there in fits and bounds.
So back to my mysteries…
In The Case of the Absent-minded Artist, I was the instructional designer for a media-rich online course. During the initial courseware review, the clients asked that two images be replaced. At the time I was extremely busy so, rather than select the images myself which is my wont, I asked the artist, whom I trusted implicitly, to make the selections for me. And fine selections they were; the clients were pleased with the selections and production continued forward. About a month later, the client asked to know the sources of the images, including the source image’s file name, so that they could validate that they could be used in their courseware.
Unfortunately, the artist was on vacation and was unavailable to ask for the information. But was i deterred, no sir. I knew we store all of our production files on a secure external server that we all have access to, and so I went there to look for them. That’s when I discovered that in the rush to make deadlines on the various projects the artist was assigned to, the source images were never uploaded there. They must have slipped the artist’s mind. All ended well, though, because the client followed up their original request with a new note saying it was unnecessary to have the detailed information after all. And when the artist came back from vacation the pictures were placed up on our server so that I could update the storyboards with the information.
My second mystery was one of a self-inflicted issue. The Case of the Misplaced Log-in involved my ability to access the internet while on the road using my personal internet provider. In this day and age of increased number and security protocols for accessing various web-sites it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep them all without writing them down. I know, IT security recommends against writing down passwords, but who can keep them all in memory for easy retrieval? Which is what I started doing with the passwords that I don’t use regularly. Over the course of a number of years I have tried a number of ways to manage my passwords, unfortunately, like a butterfly, I would flit from one solution to another and as a result my passwords are scattered over several applications and a couple of devices.
So, when I was on travel I was staying in a hotel that did not provide free Internet access, but it did offer an option for ATT customers to log-in using their personal ATT login information. It was either that or pay the Hotel for access, and being a good employee I wanted to save my company a little bit of money. I know it was not much, but as my mama would say “every little bit helps.” I don’t use this log-in very often, in fact I have probably only used it three times in the past 12 months so its not committed to memory. In fact, the first time I used it I had to call my wife to get the ATT log-in information.
Recognizing that I wouldn’t be using it frequently I wrote it down, but when the incident I am writing about occurred I became aware that I could not remember where I wrote it down. I first searched the normal locations on my laptop to no avail. Perhaps, if I had saved it in more than one location I might have found it sooner. I had a rough idea of what the login was and I spent several minutes typing in various permutations before I finally remembered where I had stored it. Once I remembered its storage location it was a matter of a few seconds and I was on the internet checking my email and completing my time card.
Now you might say i only a deficit of a few minutes between when I set out to access the Internet and when I actually was on the Information Highway, but those few minutes can add up. And if you were to multiply that by the uncounted number of times this occurs in a corporation because appropriate archiving practices are not applied and productivity is lost while searching for the information needed to perform a particular task then the lost time becomes massive.
We need to commit ourselves to engaging in sound archiving practices so we don’t all have to be a Sherlock Holmes in trying to find the information we need to do our jobs.