Digital Preservation Strategy


The organization charged with the preservation of permanent electronic government records must proactively address the risks associated with technology obsolescence including plans related to periodic renewal of storage devices, storage media, and the adoption of preferred preservation file formats.

The Archives/RM unit does not have a plan to address technology obsolescence.

Move Up to Level 1:

Develop/update an inventory of file formats in the Archives by collection or record type. Assign a team to review the inventory against good practice guidance. If the Archives does not currently have digital collections, consider piloting the inventory with a single agency, division, or department.

Conduct a survey or outreach effort to agency records managers and IT professionals to develop a list of enterprise and agency records systems and the formats in use for permanent government records. Consult with IT (state/territory or third party) who manage electronic records storage media to discuss best practices and plans to address technology obsolescence for permanent records collections.

The Archives/RM unit accepts electronic records in their native format on an ad hoc basis with the expectation that new software will become available to support these formats.

Move Up to Level 2:

Maintain the inventory of file formats in the Archives’ electronic records collections. Develop policies that identify file formats best suited for preservation and disseminate to agency staff and IT personnel who support the transfer of permanent records to the state/territorial archives.

The Archives/RM unit encourages records producers to retain records of long-term value in preservation-ready file formats. The Archives/RM unit proactively and systematically monitors changes in technologies that may impact permanent electronic records collections and the digital repository.

Move Up to Level 3:

Define requirements for migration of legacy electronic records held by agencies to supported preservation file formats. Create or update existing reformatting guidance (including digitization) to reflect preferred file format outputs and specifications. Document migration plans and workflows so the process can be replicated. Monitor file formats of incoming electronic records and develop preservation strategies (e.g., social media, virtual meetings, etc.)

The Archives/RM unit implements transformation of selected native file formats to preferred/supported preservation file formats in the digital repository.

Move Up to Level 4:

Develop plans to migrate all permanent electronic records accessioned by the Archives to supported preservation file formats. Document each migration plan and workflow to preserve the records’ digital provenance.

The Archives/RM unit implements transformation of all permanent electronic records from records producing units to preferred preservation file formats in the digital repository.

Sustain Level 4:

Given the exponential increase in the volume and diversity of electronic records in public sector agencies, a digital archive managed by the state/territorial Archives/RM unit that efficiently transforms incoming records at scale must have robust technology to manage digital object integrity. Transformation before or during ingest is a common digital preservation practice that can be performed manually or automatically via workflows in the digital repository. File transformation programs at producer agencies should be developed in consultation with the Archives, Records Management, and Information Technology stakeholders.


Digital preservation of and access to permanent electronic government records cannot be efficiently or effectively achieved without an integrated set of people-process-technologies and a commitment to sustainability of trustworthy digital repositories. Establishing the capability to monitor technology and business needs, assess risks, and follow good practices associated with file format migration and renewal of storage devices/media is critical for digital repositories operated by state and territory Archives/RM units.

Manufacturers of servers and tape drives typically provide a warranty for their product for only 3-5 years. New software solutions are generally only backwards compatible for only one to two generations. These risks are well known to IT/IM stakeholders who can serve as resources for technology monitoring and planning.