Integrated view of digital preservation

The integrated view allows us to talk about, plan for and teach about, digital preservation in a consistent and coherent way. Everyone has a view and many of these views are different. In order to reach this integrated view we have tried as far as possible to reach evidence based conclusions. We further believe that since each of those views has some validity, yet none of them show the whole picture, one important task is to identify the limitations of our various approaches. In this way we can hope to build up a coherent picture – but with gaps. These gaps will show us where further research and organisation is needed.

The following diagram provides a high level view of how all the various aspects of digital preservation fit together in a business process which helps to answer “who pays and why”.

Details can be found in the Report on a Common Vision of Digital Preservation

Click on the various areas of the image below to see related documents and web sites.

Diagram showing elements of the integrated vision for digital preservation in a business process

Diagram showing elements of the integrated vision for digital preservation in a business process

The diagram above illustrates the basic sequence of activities to implement a sustainable business process centred in the preservation of digital objects, to be embedded in the overall business cycle of organisations responsible for securing the future usage of such assets.

Note that the focus here is on preservation. There is a large number of other models ([LeFurgy],[Ball],[CEOS]) with which one may be tempted to compare; these tend to be focused on the creation of digital objects and the publication of results, or the academic lifecycle, but those models tend to ignore the business model aspects, i.e. how to implement the delivery of Digital Preservation value proposition over time.

It should be borne in mind that in reality there may be a number of iterations. For example to create a Business case, Value may be re-visited and revised as may be Usability; these iterations are omitted in the flow shown above for the sake of clarity.

The activities may be summarised as follows:


the object by a variety of sub-processes

  • Ingest
  • Store
  • Plan preservation, including identifying the designated community (ideally this should be done at the earliest opportunity – certainly before the creation of the digital objects, if we want to secure the best conditions for future usage and we must secure a proper value justification to secure financial resources flows)
  • The basic steps in preservation to counter changes are:
    • create adequate Representation Information for the Designated Community and/or
    • transform to another format if necessary or
    • if preservation cannot be carried on by the current organisation then hand over to the next organisation in the chain of preservation
  • Evidence about the authenticity of the digital objects must also be maintained, especially when the objects are transformed or handed over.
  • Confirmation of the quality of preservation can come from an Audit (with possible certification)


  • Digital objects and digital collections should remain usable, i.e. one (human or artificial agent) should be able to understand and use the digital material. This is closely related to task performability. Various tasks can be identified and layered, e.g. rendering (for images), compiling and running (for software), getting the provenance and context (for datasets), etc. In every case task performability has various prerequisites, (e.g. operating system, tools, software libraries, parameters, representation information etc.). These prerequisites are termed Representation Information in OAIS and the minimum amount of Representation Information needed is determined by the definition of the Designated Community.
  • Additional Representation Information may be created to enable a broader set of users to use and understand the digitally encoded information
    • Other communities may use different analysis tools and it may be convenient to transform the digital object to a more convenient format. This will itself require its own Representation Information; the semantic RepInfo may be unchanged but new structural RepInfo will certainly be needed.
  • The digital objects should also be discoverable in some sensible way – bearing in mind that some information will be publicly available whereas other information will be restricted.

Value proposition

The portfolio of Value proposition/s will provide the core of the answers to “Why preserve a certain digital collection and who would be willing to pay for it?”

  • Value propositions must be created by the identification, classification and quantification of the expected benefits which may be obtained by the targeted communities of customers and users from the continuous usage of the preserved objects, which in turn depends on the needs of the users and the usability conditions created for such preserved objects
  • the objects will probably be more useful to one type of user community than to another, and this may change over time. These differences and changes must be addressed by a portfolio of Value propositions (as well as by the design and implementation of adequate business models)
  • rights may be associated with the objects, perhaps arising from the value or potential value of the object. These rights can generate revenue, and the revenue generation in turn depends on the business model used.

Business case

  • There is an increasing demand from decision makers to justify: the need for objects to be preserved, the benefits derived of their usage, the costs involved in the preservation, as well as other resources required for preservation
  • Its implementation will be addressed by one or more business models
  • There will almost certainly be options for trade-offs between costs, risks and capabilities

Business model

  • The business model lays out the business logic, i.e. how the value proposition is consistently delivered to the beneficiaries.
  • Decisions about the mix of sources providing the financial resources required for implementing and operating the preservation business process will be based on the characteristics of the users and customers base (the target groups), the competition in the provision of the preserved assets as well as in the nature and dynamics of the formulated business case. Costs play an important in these considerations.
  • The resources may be used at the very start to create new digital objects, which will presumably have been created for a specific purpose and which then may be either disposed of or be preserved.
  • A selection process will be needed to decide what is to be preserved. This will presumably be based on business case and risk considerations. It may also depend on the interest of other possible curators of the information.
  • The financial resourcing may be (perhaps should be) part of the budgets needed to create the digital objects. However some or all of the objects created may be disposed of rather than preserved.

Each of these steps will be assisted by the use of tools and/or services, such as the ones the VCOE should be able to offer.

Shown as a circle outside the main figure, because it would normally be done by a third party, the audit  process will be important to provide assurance of the quality of the preservation, and will also take into account the financial viability of the archive (at least long enough for a handover of the digital holdings to take place successfully) .

The underpinning components are first the use of a consistent terminology, the OAIS terminology with extensions to cover those aspects outside the OAIS remit and second the training modules covering all aspects of the common vision.

Store Plan Audit Governance Services Rights Costs Business case Business model Rep.Info. Authenticity Usability Value Preservation Tools Tools OAIS Glossary Training Training