MetaArchive and Distributed Digital Preservation

About a year ago, I started reviewing ways to secure our digital assets against potential catastrophic losses due to disaster (natural or otherwise), technical error, hardware failure, and system attacks. I wanted a solution that offered geographically-dispersed server space to minimize the risk of loss due to disaster, regular fixity checks to help uncover any potential hardware issues on those servers, and administration differentiation between those servers and our own systems to help alleviate technical error and system attack issues.

After a review of Distributed Digital Preservation Services (as of Spring, 2013), we selected MetaArchive. MetaArchive is a digital preservation network created and hosted by memory organizations like libraries and archives. It uses LOCKSS software, which was developed by Stanford University and is used by about 12 different preservation networks worldwide. In a LOCKSS based system, materials are ingested and stored on servers hosted by network members in disparate geographical locations. The fixity of the materials is checked at regular intervals. This system helps prevents data loss occurring during natural disasters or other emergencies, or due to malicious or negligent factors. No one administrator has access to all copies of the data or can tamper without detection. A step-by-step review of how it works can be found here. Current MetaArchive membership institutions span 13 states and 4 countries. These members include many universities, the Library of Congress, and a few smaller libraries. Continue reading