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SOX is the Reason to Archive with Microfilm

Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Section 802


(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 73 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:`Sec. 1519. Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy. `Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.`Sec. 1520. Destruction of corporate audit records.

Most IT managers would tell us that the only way to archive your records is to back-up on tape or disk drives. When you consider the implications of lost data how long you (firm, office) are responsible to keep much of your corporate records, you’re chosen long term archival media system needs to be thoroughly evaluated.

Destruction, Alteration and Falsification

If you store legacy records on paper in files, how easy is it to miss-place a single page, replace an existing page with a new page or eliminate (destruction of some method – i.e. shredding) a file from a record completely.

 Corruptibility and Backwards Compatibility

While the idea of a digital back-up of your records seems safe enough, have you recently tried to open a CD or USB type media device that is 10 years old or older?

CD/DVDs are still vulnerable to data loss due to disease and damage. USB type portable devices can be corrupted during the importing/exporting process.

Technology continues to march forward at an ever quickening pace. Platforms are changing every 2-4 years which makes backwards compatibility very “iffy”. It’s not good business practice to assume that you can easily and reliably access back-up data on a disk-drive from as recent as 6 years ago.

Reliability of Tape Backups– A survey of IT executives on tape backup solutions reported these findings:

Gartner Group estimated that 10 to 50 percent of all tape restores fail. Storage Magazine and Gartner reported that 34% of surveyed companies never test a restore from tape, and of those that do test, 77% experienced tape backup failures.

  • 75% of respondents indicated that their companies suffered unrecoverable loss of corporate data they thought was successfully backed up to tape due to unreadable, lost or stolen media.
  • 63% said they encountered unreadable tapes when they tried to retrieve data with 76% of those cases reporting a direct impact to their business from loss of productivity to punishments for regulatory compliance infractions.

Every digital media is vulnerable to some type of corrupting influence. Anyone who has participated in a large conversion process from an older digital format to a more contemporary version knows the pitfalls. It is very likely that some (if not all) of the data will be corrupted and lost during the conversion process.  And data conversion is very costly.

Trusted Long Term Archival Platform

Archiving your business critical data to microfilm is still the most dependable and trustworthy solution for long term records storage. Altering a roll of film is difficult and obvious. Anyone can see if a roll of film has been spliced. The cost to archive a single image to film costs about $0.03 each and storing a roll of film costs about $1.50 per year.

A single roll of 16mm, 215’ microfilm can store more than 2 full bankers’ boxes of records. Properly filmed, processed and stored microfilm has a life expectancy (LE) of 500 years. And ultimately, you need only a flashlight to view the documents.

Government Software Buyer Beware – Avoid Proprietary

This might be better stated as “beware of proprietary image file types”. 

It was during the 1980’s when document management software first impacted the day-to-day business of local government. The ability to convert paper and microfilm images into digital images and then access them on a computer was almost revolutionary. Maybe it was… Initially, document management software vendors created closed architecture applications that relied upon proprietary (non-standard) image file types. Today we would consider standard image file types (not including-Microsoft/Windows types) as, Group IV tif, PDF, JPEG, GIF and etc…

These early developers of document management products competed primarily against themselves for much of this government business. A vendor could produce a reliable product, distribute it heavily and charge just about whatever they wanted for annual support. Vendors locked government offices into long-term support contracts for what seemed like perpetuity.

However, many of these vendors could not or would not keep up with the rapid evolution of technology. The platforms they originally built upon and the development languages they used became obsolete. The document management world began to embrace more standard platforms and languages.

Government offices found themselves locked into early generation document management products that did not deliver as well as new technology. Support costs were high and performance, by comparison, was poor.

So here is where the really big problem came into view. As government offices were deciding to upgrade to new document management technology, they became aware that they could not use their legacy images. Why, because the legacy images were in proprietary formats. These images could only be viewed in the original, now obsolete, software. Converting the proprietary images to standard image formats could only be done by the original vendor, and you guessed it, vendors were charging outrageous fees for these services. The fees required to convert their legacy images many times made the move to new technology cost prohibitive. Eventually, all of these dinosaurs became extinct, right….

Wrong – Proprietary is back and in a big way. There are multiple vendors in the local government market today selling document conversion services bundled with proprietary software. Deals are disguised as exceptionally inexpensive conversion services bundled with the vendor’s proprietary document viewing software. We know that price is always the predominant factor in purchasing at the local government level. However, what has happened now, un-suspecting government offices find themselves in the same predicament as their predecessors 20 years ago. The upfront price to provide the document conversion services seems too good to be true – and it is. Just like in days past, when the government office needs to export their images out of this proprietary environment for other uses, the answer from their vendor is “NO, you cannot have your images”.  These un-suspecting government customers are required to view their scanned images in the vendor’s software or not at all. To have use of the images in another document management system, you will need to pay to have the original documents scanned again.

How to avoid this trap?               

Prior to signing any contract with a document conversion vendor, demand that you receive your images in a standard format that you can use in any system. This will deter most of the proprietary vagrants from trying to lock you and your department into an embarrassing mess.


Document Scanning and the Three Legged Stool

Have you been to a “Scanning  Seminar” recently?  You probably walked away believing that the document scanning was the most  import part of any “conversion project”.

But then you visited with a consultant who greatly  undervalued the importance of the scanning with a dismissing statement such as,  “anybody can scan paper (or microfilm)”… He or she then explained that the crucial element of a document scanning project is  the consulting and professional services to implement your project.

But wait; now you visit with a software salesperson. You are informed that buying the proper software  will ensure a successful project no matter what type of scanning and/or  professional services you employ.

Referencing the “Three Legged Stool” analogy, we can see  that if any of these three elements fail to deliver, you will fall right upon  your _ _ _. Experience will tell us that each of these elements is  equally important.  Each is dependent  upon the other to ensure a successful project:

Scanning Service:  Proven Quality Control and Project Tracking methodologies along with proper hardware and software are crucial in the success of your project. Determining the document capture configuration is entirely dependent  upon the type and volume of your source documents. The software functionality  used to do image clean-up is the most important in this selection. If you  intend on OCR or automated forms processing, image quality is key to  success.

Professional Services: These services should set the table for the project. From  elements such as a pre-scan inventory, importing scanned images into your new software, pilot projects, project milestones, determining indexing  nomenclature, network requirements, training and other elements involved in the  over-all project implementation are the nexus to the software and scanning.

Enterprise Document/Content Management Software: Of course  software is always important. Your software selection must meet and exceed your  current needs and provide scalability for the future. Very cliché, but  truthful; by working with both a good consultant and a good software vendor,  you will get more of a 360 degree view of what you will get out of your new  software. Initially, you should access the scanned images in your new  software system in a way similar to that if you were looking for these records  in a standard file cabinet. Moving too many steps passed this may lead to user confusion, a feeling of intimidation and a  lack of user buy-in.

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