Risks to digital continuity

This advice identifies potential risks to the continuity of digital information and suggests possible approaches to address those risks.

It does not address potential risks to agencies that fail to manage digital information over time. Further guidance on this is available from Managing recordkeeping risks.

RiskPossible mitigation
Poor choice of digital file formats may introduce risks of the information becoming unusable or inappropriately accessed through technology dependence, format obsolescence or limited choice of rendering or viewing software.

Use formats that are:

  • standards based
  • widely supported and
  • not reliant on the use of proprietary software.

Regularly migrate from formats as they become obsolete.

Poor management of digital information often results from a lack of understanding of the business and other requirements for the information or uncertainty about responsibilities. It may result in information being degraded, lost or inappropriately accessed. 

  • Document the business purpose of major digital information assets.
  • Document and assign roles and responsibilities for management of the digital information.
  • Appropriately manage metadata.

In times of change there is a risk of loss of management control of digital information which may result in it being degraded, lost or inappropriately accessed.

  • Document the business purpose of major digital information assets.
  • Document and assign roles and responsibilities for management of the digital information.
  • Ensure mechanisms are in place for addressing changes in technology and/or responsibilities.
  • Plan for the end of contracts with vendors. Ensure the contracts address the current and future control of the digital information, for example, post-contract.

Ineffective management of business information migration when software is upgraded, modified or changed may result in degraded, lost or inappropriately accessed digital information.

  • Carefully manage software migration or upgrade projects to ensure continued usability and integrity of all business information.
  • Test for access and integrity prior to migration.
  • Manage in accordance with relevant records authorities.

Inappropriate storage and handling of digital information through:

  • inadequate environmental conditions
  • reliance on fragile media (eg optical disks) or
  • poor practices in handling or securing media may result in degraded, lost or inappropriately accessed digital information.
  • Ensure media are stored in appropriate, secure environmental conditions.
  • Ensure handling practices for media do not compromise the digital information.
  • Ensure routine checks of digital information for completeness when transferring or copying to other media.
  • For high-risk and high-value information, use approaches with the least risk.
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014