How should the federal government protect and preserve their records?
In some of Tameran’s blog posts, I write about how governments can simplify and improve how their records are managed, digitized and archived. I also write about how governments can protect their records from data breaches, cyber attacks and natural disasters.
I read an article in the New York Times last week about Chinese hackers who breached the records of 4 million current and former federal government employees through the Office of Personnel Management. This department handles federal employee records and government clearances. The Times reports Chinese hackers appeared to target Social Security numbers and other “personal identifying information.”
This is the third major breach into an important federal computer system in the past year. Last year, the White House and State Department email systems were attacked by Russian hackers. Last summer, the Office of Personnel Management was attacked by hackers that sought the files of tens of thousands of workers who applied for top-security clearances.
This article is a good reminder the federal government needs a better strategy for protecting their records. What’s going to happen if records are hacked and not retrievable because they were stolen or not available due to digital technology failure? As an expert with forty years in document imaging and preservation, it’s apparent the federal government needs to update old computer systems, boost cyber defenses and also preserve their records on microfilm.
Our record preservation advice
Tameran Graphic Systems recommends a hybrid-approach to document archiving. We recommend federal agencies convert their records into a common digital format (.PDF or .TIFF), transfer them into a safe digital record keeping system and then preserve them on microfilm. They’ll have instant access to all their documents and a long-term backup of their critical records.
People might even wonder why records are still stored on microfilm. The general public might think microfilm technology is obsolete and documents should be stored in the cloud. However, microfilm storage is far from dead.
Today, many industries must retain documents that are critical to their business and infrastructure for anywhere from 10 to 100 years or more. Some records related to construction, land development, environmental management, long range facility planning, power supplies, water supplies, public works including road and rail, public safety and even corporate management must be kept for life or even permanently. What happens if and when these records are lost or not available due to a digital technology failure?
Reasons the federal government should microfilm records and documents
Information Security – Information stored on durable microfilm is accessible for up to 500 years if stored properly and securely; not vulnerable to internal or external hackers as with digital data or information stored in the cloud.
Document Integrity – Microfilm does not deteriorate with age like paper nor stand the chance of digital decay and data loss through migration or a failure to migrate; microfilm is also not susceptible to outdated software, technological obsolescence or hacking like digital data.
Longest Lasting Media – Microfilm ensures safekeeping longer than any other media.
Saves Space – It is convenient and stores easily in less than five percent of the space required for paper documents.
Quick Access and Retrieval – Roll microfilm is easy to scan into digital form or view with the human eye by magnifying.
Admissible in Court of Law – It is admissible as evidence in a court of law whether original documents exist or not.
What should the federal government understand about record preservation?
Do. Understand a digital archive is not document preservation.
Don’t. Think the cloud is the best place to store long-term archived data.
Do. Establish a clear plan to digitize appropriate documents and also preserve them on microfilm.
Don’t. Store your archived documents at one location.
Do. Consult an expert in document imaging and preservation to help your agency.