The worst thing you can do with regards to ensuring the longevity of your digital data is to do nothing. For all the reasons listed previously, these are not like paper records that can be locked in a cupboard for fifty years only to be dusted off and read when required. Without active management digital information could be irretrievably lost in less than a decade.
Such intervention needn’t be complex or demanding it is more a matter of common sense. For example:
If you know you are shortly to be upgraded to a new version of a piece of software:
- Consider what information you currently have stored in the previous version
- Does it all need to be retained, or can it be removed?
- If it does need to be retained, are you sure that the new version will be able to read content created in the old? Remember that sometimes the information may appear to be readable but close reading may detect errors in the formatting such as lost header and footer information, or exchanging certain digits for meaningless symbols
- Are such errors going to be acceptable or could they make the information unreliable or unusable?
- Would it be safer to convert the file to a more stable format such as PDF/A (the ISO standard pdf format for ‘permanent’ archiving)?