Michael Popham

Michael Popham

Last updated on 6 May 2022

Michael Popham is Digital Preservation Analyst at the DPC and Jenny Mitcham is Head of Good Practice and Standards at the DPC.

Perhaps you’ve been given the go-ahead to procure a “digital preservation system”, or you’re trying to work out what differentiates such a system from the applications and infrastructure that you already have in place? How do you decide what you really need, especially in light of the rapidly evolving marketplace of commercial and open source preservation solutions? The DPC has recently launched a set of resources designed to help.

The DPC Procurement Toolkit (https://www.dpconline.org/digipres/implement-digipres/procurement-toolkit) has been updated and expanded to support Members through the procurement process and ensure the best possible outcome. Drawing on the experiences of the wider digital preservation community, the Toolkit brings together a wealth of practical advice and guidance into a single place.

One of the more significant updates to the Procurement Toolkit has been the production of a set of high-level functional requirements for a digital preservation system. This piece of work arose from the collaboration between the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the DPC, and efforts to identify the next best steps for the NDA in its preservation activities.

Extensive discussions between staff of the NDA and DPC had highlighted the fact that, as many of us are all too aware, it is not easy to give a simple definition of what successful digital preservation looks like. It can be harder still to identify and agree the essential characteristics of the underlying systems and services which will ensure that digital preservation takes place. And both of these steps are prerequisites to undertaking a gap analysis of existing applications and infrastructure, to determine what new or additional functionality is needed.

The statement of a set of “Core Requirements for a Digital Preservation System” was developed to help address these challenges.

This short document proposes ten high-level functional requirements for a digital preservation system, focussing solely on these – rather than the more general requirements of an information management system. Each high-level core requirement is subsequently expanded upon by a handful of more detailed requirements. However, it is important to bear in mind that these statements are meant to be used primarily as a starting point, and readers should feel free to alter them howsoever they wish to meet an organization’s particular circumstances and aspirations.

The requirements were initially developed by DPC staff, and then shared with DPC Supporters and Members on the Research and Practice Sub-Committee, for their feedback. The response was very positive but also served to re-emphasize that these ten statements should be adapted for specific circumstances and were not intended to set a baseline standard for digital preservation systems.

As a next step, we took these core requirements and used them as the basis for a discussion with the NDA to look at the digital preservation functionality that is already built into the NDA’s existing systems and services. Not only did this provide the NDA with a gap analysis and some areas to consider for future development, it was also a really useful first test run of the requirements for us and led to a few more tweaks to the document to improve the clarity of the message. This gap analysis with the NDA was carried out using a simple Excel worksheet, which is also being made publicly available.

Finally, drawing on previous work funded by the NDA to develop the DPC RAM, we produced a mapping from these core digital preservation system requirements to the Rapid Assessment Model. We hope that this will help organizations refine and prioritise the requirements based on their own RAM target levels, identifying where specific requirements should be met in order to help them move towards their goals. This mapping has also been included in the latest version of the DPC Procurement Toolkit.

We fully anticipate that these resources will evolve in response to feedback from the community, and would welcome any comments or suggestions that people have as we strive to make the procurement process less painful for everyone!

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