Six practical steps for creating a compliant archival system

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Today, in the 21st century, digitization has penetrated every industry, impacting the work processes and ways of doing business. This digital information increasingly becomes an asset and at the same time, a major issue for organizations, since information must be not only managed, but also retained.

The recent Belgian Digital Act, in line with the eIDAS regulation, is intended to define a legal framework for digital retention. It decides the requirements imposed on organizations in managing information in a qualified archiving system in accordance with the law. These requirements are in line with the international OAIS standards (ISO 14721:2012).

Preserving your document’s legal value

The Belgian Digital Act (July 21, 2016), incorporates some provisions related to the eIDAS regulation on electronic signature and e-identification, into the Belgian economy book. This Belgian law defines an additional legal framework for digital archiving and ensures that digital documents preserved in a qualified archival system will keep their legal value through time. It also imposes a qualified solution for documents for which there is a legal retention period, such as HR or accounting documents.

The Royal Decree determines the requirements that have to be met in order to become a qualified archive. These recommendations are in accordance with ISO 14721, also called OAIS (Open Archival Information System), an important and internationally-recognized standard for digital archiving.

Ensure accessibility in the long term

Developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data System in the 1990’s, OAIS became an ISO standard in 2003 and has been recognized since then as one of the major international standards in digital preservation. OAIS is a non-binding standard and is intended more as a set of operational and functional guidelines to create a system that ensures the accessibility and integrity of the digital information in the long term.

OAIS is meant to be open and able to share information with other OAIS-compliant repositories or archives, but it also directly involves three other entities. The producer of the information should provide the information in a correct format and add information creation and lifecycle metadata. The consumer, also called the “designated community” in the standard, is crucial because they influence the directive that there should be easy access to the information.

This designated community should be monitored to make sure that the information preserved is still relevant and comprehensible. The last entity, besides OAIS archives, producer and consumer, is the management. Its duty and obligation are to set the high-level policies and strategies that the OAIS must follow and implement.

Six practical steps

The OAIS standard developed a functional model, defining six practical steps for creating a compliant archival system: ingestion, data management, archival storage, preservation planning, access and administration.

  • Ingestion is the first and crucial function that digital archives should provide. It prepares the information to be archived and requires several checks and validity control to ensure long-term preservation.
  • Data management and archival storage are aimed at managing the actual storage of the information and the database involved.
  • Preservation planning is intended to monitor all aspects of information (content, storage support …) and to prevent any issue regarding long-term preservation. For instance, this function should alert the archives when a file format is becoming obsolete or when the validity of a digital signature will expire.
  • Access will manage the requests from the consumer and allows – or refuses – access to the archived information.
  • Finally, the central administration ensures that all the other functions are working properly on a daily basis. It will also give new input or implement new policies and strategies regarding the preservation.

Interested in reading more about these steps? Or would you like to learn more about the OAIS Informational Model? Then read this whitepaper on how to build a compliant digital archive.