Preserving Electronic Information

What if:

  • Your birth certificate or marriage license only existed on an old, outdated computer system?
  • A prescription drug manufacturer was not able to read electronic records that tracked the long-term effects of a certain drug?
  • You were involved in a legal case and the crucial piece of evidence was an email message that had not been saved?
  • Your boss wanted a copy of an important file that you had saved on a 5 1/4" floppy disk?
  • The Social Security Administration is unable to read its files when it comes time for you to receive your benefits?

Currently there is no method of permanently preserving and authenticating documents created on electronic record-keeping systems within institutions such as the government, universities, and corporations. Long-term preservation of vital organizational records and critical research data created or maintained in electronic systems is one of the most critical global issues of the digital age.

Alfred University's Information Technology Services and the University Archivist are aware of this issue and will monitor the progress of research being conducted at institutions like the University of British Columbia and Cornell University. Their focus is to formulate model policies, standards, and strategies for ensuring that authentic electronic records can be preserved over long periods of time.

In the short term, we advise campus offices and individuals to maintain paper copies of important documents and files.

Our institutional memory is at risk. Without reliable electronic records, Alfred University will be unable to manage or defend itself and be at a significant risk. We need to ensure that electronic information needed for legal, administrative, and historical purposes will exist and be useable in 10, 20, or 100 years.

We will continue to keep you informed about this critical issue.