SPRUCE Project Award: Northumberland Estates

Using the Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit to justify Digital Repository investment

Northumberland Estates (NE) were delighted to be awarded a SPRUCE Award to carry out a detailed analysis of current digital repository solutions suitable for small to medium organisations. In conjunction with The University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) they created a toolkit justifying investment in a recommended solution. The business case will aim to implement a sustainable digital repository for the long term management of Northumberland Estates digital content. With a particular focus on small to medium organisations this project aims to address the lack of knowledge in the digital preservation community on preservation as a service (PaaS) providers.

Objective: Produce a specification detailing exact requirements for procurement of a digital repository
There are a number of high level requirements which the adopted solution must meet. For this purpose, we created an organisational and technical assessment based on the methodology of the OAIS Reference Model. The technical specification is essentially a “shopping list” of what the chosen system has to do to perform digital preservation. The overall aim was to keep the specification concise, manageable and realistic so that it would meet the immediate business needs of NE, while also adhering to best practice.
Objective: Case studies analysed against specification
The specification was recast into a form that could be used for assessing a preservation solution. Before the product analysis was carried out three potential solutions were identified:
1. Open Source: Many Higher Education institutions already have mature repository instances through the use of open source software such as DSpace, EPrints, and Fedora.
2. Out of the Box: The emergence of PaaS providers such as Tessella Preservica and Ex Libris Rosetta provide active preservation and curation of digital assets.
3. Hybrid: A combination of commercial in house/open source systems. For example, Arkivum provides bit level preservation while open source OAIS digital preservation systems such as Archivematica can provide the extra level of preservation required for the creation of SIP’s, AIP’s, and DIP’s.
By conducting a product analysis for each of these options a much greater understanding of the functional capabilities were formed.
Objective: ISO 16363 assessment of NE
The product analysis provided a really good benchmark for the functional aspects of each repository option, but it was felt that the results were tending to emphasise the performance of the software, rather than the needs of the producers, consumers, or archivist. To balance this trend, the project team took on an extra objective that was not originally in scope of the project.
Broader requirements not captured by simply covering repository software functionality needed to be considered. In particular, storage and bit preservation resilience; how many copies of each file, storage in different locations; who will ingest content and where they will do it; will they have different user roles; how and where will users access the data. To cover these gaps, they were expressed by the Digital Curator in narrative form as a “basic information and workflow story” about the work of NE.
The project team agreed to address the requirements by conducting a cut-down ISO 16363 assessment. This organisational analysis was explicitly intended to complement and enhance the assessment of the repository solution. The resulting organisational assessment resulted in a mini gap analysis on the digital preservation capacity of NE. By using the expertise provided by ULCC to validate these assessments against wider expert opinion, the results represent a summary of how and whether each requirement has been met, or could be met in the future.
Objective: Business Case
The final business case needed to be as concise and targeted as possible. The decision was made to take one recommendation forward based on the functional and organisational assessments made:

1. Open Source: Previous research undertaken by the Digital Curator indicated that the implementation of an open source digital repository would not be feasible due to the investment and expertise required.

2. Out of the Box (recommended option): Preservica scored very highly and also proved to be the most cost effective solution based on initial calculations. Other out of the box solutions were considered such as Ex Libris Rosetta, but the cost of implementing this system in-house was prohibitive.

3. Hybrid: The combination of using the OAIS compliant Archivematica in conjunction with bit-level preservation provided by Arkivum was considered. However, the combination of these two solutions was not as comprehensive and cost effective in comparison to an out of the box solution.

Once the recommended option was decided, it was a case of using the guidance of the Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit to form the final business case. What resulted was a straight to the point and clear justification based on expert knowledge which was presented internally to key stakeholders within NE.
Lessons Learnt
There is no one size fits all solution!
  • Much of what is concluded will be based on your own organisational context, all of which can influence the right approach towards digital preservation. However, it is hoped that this project can establish a methodology which other small to medium organisations can adopt.
Identify existing business drivers/organisational goals.
  • Aligning organisational goals from the onset will save you a great deal of work further down the line. By identifying these key drivers you can begin to build up support for your recommended solution before the big pitch to senior management.
Use existing work already available.
  • There are a number of fantastic resources out there which can save you reinventing the wheel. The first and most obvious point of contact is the new Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit. A fantastic resource including everything you need to get started.
Lay out the options clearly and concisely.
  • Nail down upfront costs for at least the first three years. After all, you want a solution which can be sustained into the future. For any costs include benefits and any potential returns on investments which can be identified 
We believe that both the methodology and the actual outputs will have reuse value for other small organisations. With the Specification document and the Organisational Assessment form we have achieved a credible specification and assessment method that is a good fit for NE. These two forms are also provided blank which it is hoped that other organisations can use. Our methodology shows it would be possible for any small organisation to devise their own suitable specification. It is based not exclusively on OAIS, but on the business needs of NE and a simple understanding of the user workflow. There are other methods of assessment; for example the MoSCoW method instead of a weighted score.
With a thorough assessment of the solutions NE stands a better chance of selecting the right system for their business needs, using a process that can be repeated and objectively verified. This method should be regarded as quick and easy. Since we used supplier information, success of the method depends on whether that information is accurate and truthful. But it would be a good first step to selecting a supplier. More in-depth assessments of systems are possible.
With the ISO 16363 assessment we can show that it is possible for an organisation to perform a credible cut down and restricted ISO self-assessment in a very short time. This could be a viable alternative to using an expensive consultant. It must be noted that these outputs do not represent a short cut to carry out a full ISO assessment. The methodology and outputs instead demonstrate how smaller organisations can carry out a similar process to assess their own digital preservation requirements.
The results from this project are clearly encouraging for small to medium organisations who wish to address the problems associated with digital preservation. There are a variety of emerging solutions; from out of the box solutions like Preservica, to open source digital preservation systems such as Archivematica. With the correct buy-in from stakeholders and investment in time, resources, and expertise smaller organisations can implement solutions which will preserve digital content in a sustainable manner.
However, procuring preservation systems is by no means a straightforward task. The current market remains relatively small and there are limited options to choose from. If small organisations (no matter which sector they belong to) are to be convinced of the worth of investing in digital preservation systems there needs to be greater advocacy within the wider digital preservation community, and increased competition amongst vendors who provide such solutions.
The full Northumberland Estates case study can be found at:
Christopher Fryer – Digital Curator and Assistant Records Manager, Northumberland Estates
Edward Pinsent – Digital Archivist/Project Manager, University of London Computer Centre (ULCC)


By Chris Fryer, posted in Chris Fryer's Blog

13th Nov 2013  1:40 PM  11436 Reads  No comments


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