Via the Bureau Windows Technical Support Team (BWTST): "Archives and Backups
are two very different things. Backups are created for the express purposes of data restoration and continuity of operations in an emergency. In short, Backups are an insurance policy in case of disaster, which may include everything from accidental file data deletion to catastrophic loss of equipment. Archives, on the other hand, are a means for long-term storage of historically important data which are probably no longer needed online for immediate access."
This document provides guidelines for employees in technical evaluation of systems for preserving digital scientific data.
This document provides recommended temperature and relative humidity ranges for storing USGS science records.
- Archives should be created in a platform- and software-independent format on stable media such that they can be retained and used indefinitely.
- Archives must be uniquely labeled, thoroughly catalogued, and stored in a controlled and protected environment.
- Multiple copies of Archives are to be kept in separate locations.
- Ideally, Archives should be created in a platform- and software-independent format on stable media such that they can be retained and used indefinitely. For example, data in geographic information system (GIS) databases may be stored in a proprietary format. This proprietary format may be altered over time as the GIS software evolves. Hence, in order to ensure that the data will be useful years later, it's necessary to export these data in a standard and portable format.
- Often, Archives are created for legal reasons. They provide a snap-shot of data as a historical record, similar to the way an accountant may retain tax records. Outside entities may expect that Archives be periodically created of all system data including logs, Web cache, email, project proposals, and the like. It is not unheard of to have such records subpoenaed in legal proceedings involving USGS offices and programs.
- Because Archives are created to be kept indefinitely, they should be created using stable media. Magnetic tapes and inexpensive optical media have a limited shelf life. Care should be taken to find and use appropriate archival quality media. It is understood that Archives may have to be moved to new media periodically in order to ensure their viability. Information on archival quality media is available on the Media Options page (USGS BWTST - Internal Site).
- Archives must be uniquely labeled, thoroughly catalogued, and stored in a controlled and protected environment. System Administrators should consider contracting with a firm that specializes in long-term storage of archives. Also, the benefits of creating multiple copies of Archives to be kept in separate locations should be given appropriate consideration.
- Archives can be made for various reasons. An archive may be made at the end of a project to create a historical record of all data and information from that project. Archives are also made as part of federal records management.