Investigating the Needs, Capabilities and Decision Making Mechanisms in Digital Preservation: Insights from a Multiple Case Study

Investigating the Needs, Capabilities and Decision Making Mechanisms in Digital Preservation: Insights from a Multiple Case Study

Daniel Burda (SAP Research, Regensdorf, Switzerland) and Frank Teuteberg (University of Osnabrueck, Osnabrueck, Germany)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/irmj.2013070102
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Firms are required to consciously retain information in an effort to ensure compliance with legal and business needs. However, sustained accessibility to digital information cannot be taken for granted as it is threatened by expeditiously changing technologies associated with the risk of obsolete soft- and hardware. As part of an effort to ensure long-term access to digital information, digital preservation (DP) provides effective means. But still little is known about DP in firms. In this study the authors aim to provide insights into a firm’s DP needs, capabilities and decision making mechanisms by conducting a multiple case study through the lens of organizational information processing theory. The results indicate that a lack of decision making procedures and responsibilities impedes the alignment between DP needs and capabilities, which seems to foster a culture of information hoarding. Based on the authors’ empirical insights about DP in firms they derive an explanatory model and provide five managerial recommendations.
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Firms are increasingly required to consciously retain specific information in an effort to ensure compliance with legal and business needs. In this endeavor, all forms of electronically stored information, for example, e-mails, documents, spreadsheets or other file fragments residing on a multitude of locations, such as laptops, mobile phones or backup tapes should be considered in this digital age. All varieties of digital information might be subject to a compliance audit, regulatory investigation or e-discovery in a legal dispute (Volonino, Sipior, & Ward, 2007; Ward, Sipior, Volonino, & Purwin, 2011). Legislations such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and industry-specific regulations, e.g., applicable in the financial services, pharmaceutical or aviation sector require firms to preserve their business data for several years (Khatri & Brown, 2010; Pavlou & Snodgrass, 2012). For instance, the Civil Aviation Regulations that are applicable to firms in the aviation sector, require aircraft maintenance records to be retained for a minimum period of 90 days after the aircraft, engine and component [...] has been permanently withdrawn from service (FAA, 2007 p. 9-35). In the case of Boeing's 747, launched in 1969 and still in service (Boeing, 2012), such regulations result in retention periods of more than 40 years. During such a long period, vast amounts of maintenance information have to be acquired, retained and kept accessible in times of exponential data growth (Hilbert & López, 2011).

Lengthy retention requirements pose significant challenges for firms as long-term accessibility of digital information data cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, protracted retention requirements are threatened by the effects of rapidly changing technologies and the associated risk of hard- and software obsolescence (Berman, 2008). As part of an effort to sustain long-term access to information, digital preservation provides appropriate means. DP can be conceived as the ability to sustain the accessibility, understandability and usability of digital objects in the distant future regardless of changes in technologies and in the ‘designated communities’ (data consumers) that use these digital objects (Rabinovici-Cohen, Baker, Cummings, Fineberg, & Marberg, 2011, p. 1). DP comprises techniques like migration, emulation or encapsulation to ensure long-term access to digital information (Lee, Slattery, Lu, Tang, & McCrary, 2002). The meaning of long-term has been defined in the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) standard (ISO 14721:2003) as long enough to be concerned with the impacts of changing technologies, including support for new media and data formats or with a changing user community. Long-term may extend indefinitely (CCSDS, 2002, p. 1). Acknowledging this definition, long-term DP is concerned with the threatening effects of rapidly changing technologies and the lifetime of storage media on the accessibility of digital information.

The rising awareness of the challenges of information retention has led to both a growing interest in the market and a demand for archiving solutions. According to the private sector research firm Gartner, software vendors have responded to these demands by offering extended archiving products that provide long-term preservation and e-discovery functionality (Childs, Chin, & Logan, 2011). Despite the necessity and usefulness of technological measures, the role of organizational measures is emphasized in an attempt to ensure the effective retention of a firm’s information assets in line with business, legal and regulatory objectives (Khatri & Brown, 2010).

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