Is your information sustainable?

Who remembers using an early word processor, like WordStar? What about VisiCalc? In those dark old days, many computers didn't come with a hard drive - we stored all of our documents on removable storage media, like 8 ¼" floppy disks. How many of the documents and images that we saved then are still accessible now? Even if the storage format can be read, what about the machinery to read the media. Before floppy disks, everything was stored on reels of magnetic tape. Early in my career, a company I worked for had geodetic survey stored on banks of these tape reels. The information had cost a small fortune to collect - but even if these tapes still exist today, it's unlikely that the means to retrieve the information is around.

This is a real problem, that still exists today. While the storage media has changed, the issue of long-term information storage and retrieval remains problematic. How do you ensure that the thing you store today will be retrievable using tomorrow's technology?

For example, most countries require businesses to keep financial records for an extended period - in New Zealand, for example, it's seven years. Most businesses currently keep this information as paper records.  However, as cloud accounting services like Xero become the new normal, it will be interesting to observe whether business owners have sufficient trust in the supplier to dispense with the paper. For younger business owners, the convenience of cloud-based access to financial records will almost certainly trump the "old fashioned" paper. Whether that's a sustainable model for their financial information will only become apparent over time. What would happen if Xero was to suffer a catastrophe? It seems unthinkable today - but today's unthinkable becomes tomorrow's normality.

How will you ensure that your critical business information will be available when you need it?