Device / Media Renewal


No known digital device or storage medium is invulnerable to decay and obsolescence. A foundational digital preservation capability is ensuring the readability of the bitstreams underlying the electronic records. ISO 14721 specifies that a trustworthy digital repository’s storage devices and storage media should be monitored and renewed (“refreshed”) periodically to ensure that the bit streams remain readable over time. A projected life expectancy of removable storage media does not necessarily apply in a specific instance of storage media.

Hence, it is important that a trustworthy digital repository have a protocol for continuously monitoring removable storage media (e.g., magnetic tape, external tape drives, or other media) to identify any that face imminent catastrophic loss. Ideally, this renewal protocol would automatically execute renewal by the digital repository.

The Archives/RM unit has no device/media renewal protocol in place.

Move Up to Level 1:

Check with the agency, central, or third-party IT staff that manage storage for the Archives to identify current practices and review existing documentation that specifies device/media renewal practices. Establish an inventory that maps the Archives’ digital collections to their associated storage device/media.

Current practice mandates digital repository device/media renewal when they are on the verge of becoming obsolescent.

Move Up to Level 2:

Ensure policies and procedures mandate device/media renewal on a regularly scheduled basis for permanent electronic government records repositories. If possible, specify the frequency of renewal.

Current practice mandates digital repository device/media renewal on a regularly scheduled basis (e.g., every ten years).

Move Up to Level 3:

Develop an annual inspection program that identifies device/media used for storage of permanent electronic government records that potentially face catastrophic data loss.

An annual device/media inspection program identifies digital repository device/storage media that face imminent catastrophic data loss.

Move Up to Level 4:

The storage systems used by the Archives for permanent electronic records are continuously monitored to prevent loss. Devices are replaced regularly before obsolescence occurs and data is written to new media.

The digital repository’s device and media renewal program continuously monitors the potential loss of readability of permanent electronic government records and automatically replaces devices/storage media and writes the records to new storage media.

Sustain Level 4:

Congratulations! The Archives has successfully ensured that the devices and media used for the preservation of and access to permanent government records are monitored and renewed as needed to prevent/minimize loss. Continue to make investments in device monitoring, detection of bit rot and other instances of data corruption, and routinely replace devices before they begin to fail.


As state and territorial Archives establish and expand their digital repositories for government records and other permanent assets, resources and coordinated capabilities to ensure secure and trustworthy infrastructure are critical. Given the sophistication of modern state/territory government infrastructure and the attention that cybersecurity has received in recent years, it is safe to assume that device and media renewal is a standard operating practice at agencies, third parties providing services to government, and by central executive branch IT units. Redundant, geographically dispersed, and self-healing requirements for permanent electronic government records repositories will require specialized technology and management services that go above and beyond standard information technology practices.


The CoSA Digital Preservation Capability self-assessment and Level Up Roadmap are based on the DPCMM so there is an assumption that archival institutions seeking to establish trusted digital repositories for permanent electronic government records will conform their operations to the specifications of ISO 14721 and ISO 16363, the de facto standards for the global digital preservation community.