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3. Data Life Cycle

3.5.2 Conservation

Data conservation ensures that data are secured and backed-up. It is an essential step, often postponed or forgotten, that requires short-term and long-term plans.

First, data back-ups have to be made on a regular basis in order to keep a current version of all data collected. With back-ups, one can react to events such as corrupt data files or loss of data. Back-up integrity should be checked regularly and copies should be kept in a safe place. It is also important to clearly identify all raw data, modifications, computations as well as the various file versions.

Eventually, consideration should be given to using a data warehouse or data center. Most institutions have such facilities and they have staff dedicated to data conservation. One of the main issues related to data conservation is the sustainability of physical supports e.g. type of media used for storage such as hard drives, software, processors, etc. As information and communication technologies evolve rapidly, verifications of the computer infrastructure become essential in order to keep up with technological advancements. System functionality should be tested regularly and operating system migrated as required. Aside from institutional data centers, there are those organized around the specific interests of communities, for example the GBIF information infrastructure for biodiversity data.

Another type of storage that has become quite popular is "cloud" archiving where virtual storage space is made available to users on remote servers, often free of charge. In this case, users should ensure that the service is reliable, safe, with proper access controls and will respect data confidentiality.

For more information, see Section 4. Data Sustainability.