Skip Stein
Consulting Services

Data Storage and Records Management


Skip Stein

Management Systems Consulting, Inc.

Every Six Hours, the NSA Gathers as Much Data as Is Stored in the Entire Library of Congress. Healthcare records accumulate and data storage requirements accelerate. Corporate information data bases continue to expand and more complex data access and storage techniques develop.

As digital devices and information increasingly is stored and seldom discarded, the Global requirements for viable, retrievable data storage increases. Formats of data from graphically stored, text based material, slide presentations, digital and analytical data of all forms and formats are being stored on magnetic media, optical and solid state devices. In most cases the date is digitally encoded in any number of formats.

There are differences in base storage modalities. Everything from octal, hexadecimal, Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) , ANSI and Double-byte character set (DBCS), plus many many more! Program products used to encode, store and retrieve text, image, sound and video data have come and gone over recent years. Many or most of them utilized a proprietary format. Many of these companies are no longer viable and have ceased to exist as has their proprietary programs. Those old programs that do exist are not compatible on newer hardware and software platforms. There are terabytes upon exabytes of data stored around the Globe that cannot be deciphered.

What about all those magnetic media (tapes, disks, etc.) stored in archival off-premise storage facilities. How many companies have procedures to retrieve and test the data viability of the data they so dutifully stored. For ALL this media there is a standard viable life and it is measured in years, not decades or centuries. Magnetic tape will deteriorate in a few years as the hub pressure of the wound media causes bit losses that accelerate over time. TDK rates the archival lifespan of its cyanine-based CD-R discs at 70 years; and that depends on storage environment, handling and other environmental factors. Each manufacturer has a different and variable lifespan and much depends on the device used to encode the data; each varying in quality and longevity!

So what happens when a researcher or lawyer wants to retrieve the medical records of an 80 year old individual that may have been administered an, as yet unknown, treatment, procedure or drug that ultimately caused a health problem resulting the treatment administered 40 years previously? Assuming the data can be found and accessed, will there be a device that can read the media. How about a software program that can interpret the data, read the graphic, display the textual content. Will Microsoft Word documents be used in 2065? Will there be computers in 2065; ones that are recognizable by today's technology. With the advent of quantum computing, who knows!

So what is a company or organization to do? How do they plan ahead. How do they keep data that may be vital to future research or corporate legal requirements. How will privacy laws contribute or limit access and how will this access be documented, tracked and restricted?

There just are no Global data storage standards or specifications. Every bureaucratic and political organization has different rules and regulations. Every industry, university and institution has different methods, procedures, software and encoding techniques, modalities and capabilities. Every organization used different equipment and digital media; none of which comply with any basic ANSI-Like standards.

We need to think and plan for the Future NOW!