A Call For Good Data Stewardship Before The Digital Deluge

12/23/08

Everybody knows that America’s crumbling roads, bridges, power plants, and other physical infrastructure won’t make it into the future without costly maintenance, retrofitting, and construction. It’s expensive but necessary: Our civil infrastructure provides the foundation for modern living, and it’s hard to get anywhere without it.

The same is true for our digital world. Information infrastructure(or cyber-infrastructure)—computers, networks, data, storage, software systems,and the folks who run them – play the supporting role for life and work in the Information Age, and drive 21st Century commerce, entertainment, research, and practice.

Most of us know someone who lost data when the hard drive on their computer crashed. Their digital valuables may have included the music in their iTunes library, photos, personal financial information, or even the draft for a book or important research paper. We are now at risk as a nation of experiencing similar losses on a far larger scale.

One of the most important, yet fragile, parts of our cyber-infrastructure is the electronic information on which the digital world depends. E-documents, digital medical images, scientific data video, audio, and personal digital records are critical to our lives and work, yet they are constantly at risk. Accessing them requires up-to-date storage media and functional software systems that enable us to organize and query the information. Preserving them over years and decades requires migration of this information between many generations of storage media without interruption or loss.

International Data Corp. reported last year that the amount of digital data we’re creating is beginning to exceed our ability to store it. By 2011, the amount of data we’re generating will be 10 times bigger than it was in 2006.

Most important, the care and feeding of digital information requires … Next Page »

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