How to keep your digital data safe

As more and more data only exist in digital form, the need for secure, easy-to-use digital storage becomes more pressing. How do you make sure your digital files and folders are safe without making it difficult or time-consuming to find and retrieve the information you need?   

Oxford’s new Digital Preservation service (‘DigiSafe’) has been set up to meet the need expressed by departments and colleges for secure, long-term archiving of digital material. The subscription service was launched in late 2020 and units are already storing, managing, and accessing their digital material via a dedicated, easy-to-use platform.   

One of the earliest joiners was Worcester College. College archivist Emma Goodrum is leading work to get the college’s digital archive onto the platform.  We asked Emma for her thoughts about DigiSafe.

Why did your unit decide to join DigiSafe?

Our administrative records are increasingly born digital and kept electronically for the entirety of their use. We needed a repository for these records which would ensure they remained accessible throughout their administrative life, and also preserve those  required by the Archives.   

What are you using the service for?

Cartoon image of a laptop with a filing drawer emerging from it

We are currently using DigiSafe primarily as a repository for the digital collections of the Archives: i.e. those records transferred in electronic formats from our administration or alumni for permanent preservation. These records are consulted infrequently, and there is a danger that they will become corrupt or inaccessible without anyone noticing. DigiSafe regularly checks collections, and has readers for obsolete formats, reducing the need for laborious checks by members of staff.    

Is there anything you particularly like about DigiSafe?  

DigiSafe is easy to use (uploading records can be as simple as dragging the file into the relevant folder), and it also allows for some customisation to suit our requirements. I particularly like the fact that the ‘nodes’ and ‘containers’ can be arranged in a hierarchy which mirrors the archival cataloguing arrangement already in use for physical records.    

How do you see your use of this service developing in the future?

Our next step is to expand the use of DigiSafe to records which are still used by our administration, where we need to ensure long-term access (records with a life of over 10 years, such as alumni records). I am also excited to investigate the system for importing email inboxes when transferred to the Archives.   

What advice would you give someone considering joining?

Definitely do it! Don’t be put off by the small amount of preparation required, because it will make using the system much easier once it is done. Also, don’t hesitate to contact the DigiSafe support team at IT Services for help and advice – they are excellent at quickly answering questions and solving problems. Finally, don’t be afraid to try things or to make mistakes, or to suggest changes which might help you – they may also help other users.     

To learn more about this new service, feel free to visit the DigiSafe web pages or contact the service manager who would be happy to show you the platform and explore how the service can meet your requirements.

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