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IBM Develops New Preservation Technology for Storing Digital Data for Decades

IBM Research today announced an entirely new way to preserve digital information, so it can be read decades after it was created despite future changes in digital formats.

Researchers at the lab in Haifa, Israel, are ensuring that digital files -- such as photos, movies, music, videos, financial records, health records, manuscripts, and more -- will be accessible and readable for decades and possibly even centuries—no matter how the content was created.

Why Long-Term Data Preservation is Critical for Consumers and Businesses
• As the world becomes increasingly digital, we may find ourselves in the “digital Dark Ages" in which business, cultural, and personal assets are in ever greater danger of being lost or rendered unreadable due to changing technologies and standards.

• As the volume of digital information continues to grow and digital formats change from year to year, consumers and companies will be faced with archiving and data retention problems. According to analyst firm IDC, more than 160 exabytes of digital information was created – that’s three million times the information in all the books ever written – in 2006 alone.

• A recent study by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that fewer than half of all feature films made before 1950 have survived. And because the annual cost of digital film archiving is more than 10 times greater than that of storing celluloid film, we could be facing classic movie extinction. Today, no media, hardware or software exits that can reasonably assure long-term accessibility of digital assets.

Details About IBM Research Long-Term Data Preservation Projects
• IBM researchers in Haifa are participating in the Cultural, Artistic and Scientific knowledge for Preservation, Access and Retrieval (CASPAR) project, launched as part of the EU’s program to preserve cultural and scientific resources. The project covers cultural data, scientific data, and contemporary arts. Why is this relevant and what’s the significance?

• IBM Research’s contributions to CASPAR will center around a new storage concept called Preservation Datastores. This technology uses open standards and the Open Archival Information System (OAIS ) to provide a common storage interface for preservation. This solution encapsulates the data with large amounts of metadata including context information, format information, the type of software or operating system required to access the information, and other details in order to interpret the data hundreds of years after it is stored.

• This summer, IBM researchers demonstrated a long-term preservation software package that will be deployed for use with data from the European Space Agency (ESA), UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and UNESCO.

• Preservation Datastores and long-term digital preservation is just one way IBM is helping customers manage their information. IBM’s Information on Demand initiative applies the company’s broad spectrum of global software, hardware, research and industry consulting expertise, etc. to provide clients with the means to address their increasing, industry-specific information management challenges. Access to information is often restricted because most data is tightly associated with the applications for which it was created. IBM has created new open tools that help businesses identify which information is important; how to make information available to the people and applications that need it; the technology required to manage information; and the governance and processes needed to put an information management plan into action. For each industry, IBM is providing a suite of consulting services, software and industry guides to address that sector's critical business challenges.

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