Infrastructure > Cloud

A Matter of Record

Published 25 September 2016

Council and healthcare users weigh up long term options for preservation of their digital assets and usability of institutional records


The challenge for cash-strapped public sector organisations in offering public access to historical records and managing assets themselves is prompting some to opt for vendor-hosted, managed solutions.

In a recent example, the Norfolk Record Office adopted Perpetua, Arkivum’s digital preservation solution, to digitally secure, preserve and provide public access to its ‘born digital’ archives.

The Norfolk Record Office is responsible for collecting and archiving unique materials on the history of Norfolk, ensuring that they are discoverable and accessible for people not only in the local area, but across the world.

Gary Tuson, the county’s archivist said, “Our archive is not only unique and of great cultural value, but it is also constantly growing and many of these new additions will only ever exist as digital files.  If these are lost it will leave an enormous hole in our collective memory so making sure that we not only preserve these, but make them accessible has become increasingly important. We liked the fact that Perpetua gives equal emphasis to both preserving digital assets as it does to making them discoverable and accessible. The fact that Arkivum will be managing the solution for us also means that we can use our expertise in the areas where it will have most impact.”

Norfok considered that Perpetua’s architecture and capabilities provided it with the requisite flexibility to meet the different requirement sets across the range of institutions that make up the East of England Regional Archive Council (EERAC), a consortium of local government councils of which Norfolk Record Office is a member. The consortium is planning on using Perpetua as a centralised service for all of its members.

Guy Yaniv, Arkivum’s recently appointed chief executive, added, “Norfolk Record Office is leading the way in demonstrating how local governments can bring their archived collections of historical assets to life through digital preservation, public discovery and access. Norfolk sought a managed, end-to-end solution that would meet its demanding standards as well as provide operational flexibility and long-term peace of mind.”

Another new Perpetua UK user is the University of Westminster. It has a 175-year old collection of historical records from both its predecessor institutions and from donated materials and faced the challenge of safeguarding, preserving and providing global access to its digital and digitised collections.

Elaine Penn, the university’s archivist and records manager said, “Our institutional records are extremely important to us and having a trusted partner whose solutions is on the Jisc framework is central to our long term storage strategy.”

Yaniv, who joined Arkivum last May from Nice Systems, said, “I have seen the demand for growth in the need to preserve and manage large chunks of data. Arkivum enjoyed great success. It literally doubled its business in the last year both in terms of clients we serve and the revenues we generate. And that for me was a clear indication of the demand in the market but also the value that we bring to our clients.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of trustworthiness and how Arkivum is being perceived by clients. They are using us to safeguard their most precious data for literally decades.

“Our customer project length varies. We have very long projects of a couple of decades. But there are also one or two year deals that the company has won in the early days. We are in a term based business. By definition, our clients have an exit plan. So whenever they choose to leave, they can. But time and time again, our clients choose to renew their business with us. Many of the proof of concepts are turning into real projects,” he added.

Perpetua is a digital preservation and access solution that can be deployed or operated as either cloud-based or on-premise. According to Arkivum, its use ensures that digital files can remain accessible and usable over decades or even longer timescales.

Perpetua takes Arkivum towards a different type of buyer, enhancing and expanding the buying entities within its customer base. Typical buyers are clients who are facing the problem of keeping data for many years in a secure, safe manner. They could be in IT functions or archivists.  But they all have to deal with managing and preserving data.

Arkivum’s main users are in education, healthcare, heritage – for example, libraries and archives - and local government. In higher education it is notably used for safeguarding and preserving research data.  It currently has around half of the top 60 UK universities as customers.

Arkivum says there is interest across a range of sectors where users who may already have bought a solution for the long term safety of their data are now starting to think of how they are going to be able to use and understand those digital assets in the future. It is not necessarily about just about putting files away and getting them back again, but about does the organisation have the applications that can read those files in ten or 20 years time, because many customers have a long term retention requirement? For example, records in local government or healthcare.

Solutions such as Perpetua are being  targeted at the long term usability of organisations’ content. Previously organisations might have taken steps to keep their files safe. But they may not have got over the hurdle of needing the staff and the resources to do digital preservation themselves. For smaller organisations, the barrier to entry is often too high.  It is a specialist area – and organisations require the right people with the right skills and the right IT support.

But often, users such as local authorities do not have that sort of skills or resources. They tend to focus on the ‘now’  and though the organisation may have an archivist – it might be full time or part time – they are usually overloaded with requirements to make their heritage stuff accessible e.g. public history or local history, or to retain their social care records.

One current issue for those in local government involves where schools convert to academies and are then under private sector control. All the records were originally the responsibility of the local authority and they cannot leave them with the school. Looking ahead, the organisation will now have a new set of records that it needs to keep. The archivist in the academy will be responsible for the ongoing records, but what records had previously been held whilst the school was under local authority control still have to be kept for a certain period of time.

Arkivum is hoping that its Perpetua hosted solution can help, leaving archivists better able to focus on their day job of worrying what content they have and who needs to access it.













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