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Digital Preservation


17 Examples of Digital Preservation

Digital preservation is the practice of storing digital objects in resilient ways that are likely to survive into the future. Digital technologies change quickly such that operating systems, platforms, file systems, applications, file formats, compression formats, encryption formats and data storage devices regularly become obsolete. Likewise, digital information can easily become corrupted in storage. These are major challenges if you need data to survive for decades, centuries or indefinitely. The following are illustrative examples of digital preservation.

Appraisals & Audits

Analysis of digital preservation needs, risks and effectiveness.

Format Selection

Selecting a format that is likely to survive into the future. For example, a popular format that is widely used. Open formats supported by many products are preferable to proprietary formats that bind you forever to a particular commercial entity.

Media Selection

Selecting data storage devices and media. Some media is specifically designed to last for decades or longer. However, it is also possible to sustain data on inexpensive commodity media if you regularly backup, validate and migrate.


Digitization is the process of converting analogue information to digital. Digital formats have preservation advantages as they can be copied many times as backups.

Format Conversion

The process of converting digital information from a legacy format to a modern format that is likely to be supported into the future.


Moving files to new environments such as an upgraded file system or new type of data storage device.


The basic process of taking many copies of information to reduce the probability of loss. These may be geographically distributed on different types of storage device and media.

Information Security

The process of securing digital information in storage, transit and use including physical security. This presents special challenges in the context of digital preservation. For example, a method for securely providing encryption passphrases and tokens to the future.

Data Integrity

Validating that information hasn't changed using techniques such as a checksum.

Continuous Maintenance

An approach to digital preservation whereby information and media is uploaded to a large number of geographically distributed servers and actively maintained on an ongoing basis with techniques such as daily backups and regular migration to the newest platforms. This provides highly usable data and has other advantages such as immediate handling of corrupted information.

Disaster Planning

Planning for future disasters that may physically destroy media or disrupt power and access to facilities. For example, backing up to media that can survive a strong electromagnetic pulse.


Capturing information that describes the technical details and context information for each digital object.


The practice of placing metadata and a digital object together in a single file. It is considered a bad practice to have a separate database that is required to fully understand each digital object. Think from the perspective of someone who is trying to understand your file 70,000 years from now.


Digital files aren't static entities but are designed for use with specific software and/or hardware. Consider a video game that relies on numerous external APIs, runtime environments and hardware units. A common approach to extending the useful life of such digital entities is to build a portable emulator with open source code.

Source Code

Preserving the source code for all software, including emulators, that is required to use your digital objects. Again, proprietary closed-source formats aren't a good idea.

Digital Preservation Platform

There has been some effort to develop highly scalable platforms for digital preservation such that each organization faced with digital preservation needs doesn't have to reinvent an approach. The more important digital assets that are moved to a common platform, the more likely it is that the future will make the effort to recover the platform.

Personal Archiving

Individuals commonly seek to preserve their digital assets using techniques such as multiple backups and cloud storage services in multiple geographic locations.
Overview: Digital Preservation
The practice of storing digital objects in resilient ways that are likely to survive into the future.
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