In the fourth of our series of posts on reworking the AIDA self-assessment toolkit, we look at a technical element – Managed Storage.
Reworking AIDA Storage
In reworking the toolkit, we are now looking at the 11th Technology Element. In the “old” AIDA, this was called “Institutional Repository”, and it pretty much assessed whether the University had an Institutional Repository (IR) system and the degree to which it had been successfully implemented, and was being used.
For the 2009 audience, and given the scope of what AIDA was about, an IR was probably just the right thing to assess. In 2009, Institutional Repository software was the new thing and a lot of UK HE & FE institutions were embracing it enthusiastically. Of course your basic IR doesn’t really do storage by itself; certainly it enables sharing of resources, it does managed access, perhaps some automated metadata creation, and allows remote submission of content. An IR system such as EPrints can be used as an interface to storage – as a matter of fact it has a built-in function called “Storage Manager” – but it isn’t a tool for configuring the servers where content is stored.
Storage in 2016
In 2016, a few things occurred to me thinking about the storage topic.
- I doubt I shall ever understand everything to do with storage of digital content, but since working on the original AIDA my understanding has improved somewhat. I now know that it is at least technically possible to configure IT storage in ways that match the expected usage of the content. Personally, I’m particularly interested in such configuration for long-term preservation purposes.
- I’m also aware that it’s possible for a sysadmin – or even a digital archivist – to operate some kind of interface with the storage server, using for instance an application like “storage manager”, that might enable them to choose suitable destinations for digital content.
- Backup is not the same as storage.
- Checksums are an essential part of validating the integrity of stored digital objects.
I have thus widened the scope of Element TECH 11 so that we can assess more than the limited workings of an IR. I also went back to two other related elements in the TECH leg, and attempted to enrich them.
To address (1), the capability that is being assessed is not just whether your organisation has a server room or network storage, but rather if you have identified your storage needs correctly and have configured the right kind of storage to keep your digital content (and deliver it to users). We might add this capability is nothing to do with the quantity, number, or size of your digital materials.
To assess (2), we’ve identified the requirement for an application or mechanism that helps put things into storage, take them out again, and assist with access while they are in storage. We could add that this interface mechanism is not doing the same job as metadata, capability for which is assessed elsewhere.
To address (3), I went back to TECH 03 and changed its name from “Ensuring Availability” to “Ensuring Availability / Backing Up”. The element description was then improved with more detailed descriptions concerning backup actions; we’re trying to describe the optimum backup scenario, based on actual organisational needs; and provide caveats for when multiple copies can cause syncing problems. Work done on the CARDIO toolkit was very useful here.
To incorporate (4), I thought it best to include checksums in element TECH 04, “Integrity of Information”. Checksum creation and validation is now explicitly suggested as one possible method to ensure integrity of digital content.
Managed storage as a whole is thus distributed among several measurable TECH elements in the new toolkit.
In this way I’m hoping to arrive at a measurable capability for managed storage that does not pre-empt the use the organisation wishes to make of such storage. The wording is such that even a digital preservation strategy could be assessed in the new toolkit – as could many other uses. If I can get this right, it would be an improvement on simply assessing the presence of an Institutional Repository.