As the needs for data preservation continually evolve, new standards for storing that data online and in other digital formats continues to evolve with those needs. The largest problem with digital data storage lies with the recovery of that data and its translation into a human readable format. Any information stored in an unsupported format is effectively lost without means of retrieval and interpretation.
Future efforts to preserve information online will need to conform to a number of standards, including hardware access, platform dependence, and copyright ownership. The last is the most important, as copyright law applies to the information storage formats as well as to the information itself. In order to preserve information in any kind of format, the preservationist requires the legal right to access and reproduce that information. Since digital information is stored in lines of computer code subject to interpretation by other code, any preservation effort must reproduce the information retrieval program as well as the information. For example, a PDF document is useless without the software to read the file.
The next step up the chain is the operating system that runs the information retrieval software. Just as the information is useless without software to read and display that information, any interpretive software is useless without a compatible operating system on which it may run. Increasing options exist for platform independent software, allowing a given program to run on many different operating systems. One popular example is the Java language, which functions across multiple operating systems
Finally, all of the software and data must have hardware capable of physically reading, executing, and displaying the final product. As technology develops, hardware standards change at the same pace as its companion software. Both hardware and software must be developed simultaneously to ensure an unbroken chain of information.
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