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Depositing Student Records with University Archives: Digital Preservation Tips

A guide to help you deposit your student records annually.

What is Digital Preservation?

Digital preservation is more than just saving data online or on your computer. All hardware and software will eventually fail. Therefore, we use a combination of policies, strategies, and actions to help preserve digital files. 

Some steps include:

  • Virus and malware checking and quarantining
  • Migrating files to new formats upon file format and/or software obsolescence
  • Saving multiple copies of the files on multiple servers
  • Patching corrupted, saved data with copies made on other servers
  • Restricting edit access to files to maintain authenticity

NUL Digital Preservation Policy

Find more information about how Northwestern University Libraries practices digital preservation:

What Can I Do?

In a library setting, we take additional steps to preserve data for as long as possible. But there are some things you can do before you donate your digital records that will help:

  1. Maintain a record of your passwords and dates they were last changed
  2. Back up your data; never rely on only one copy of your files
  3. Do not rely solely on cloud vendors as your only storage option. These servers are owned and managed by companies - not you! Keep a copy of your data on a external drives or a private server.
  4. Know who has access to your data, who can edit it, who can delete it, etc.
  5. Store any physical storage drives (e.g., hard drives, flash drives) in a cool, semi-dry environment
  6. Transfer copies of data onto new drives every 2-5 years to avoid drive failure
  7. Keep your files organized and described
  8. Keep notes on what operating systems, browsers, software, etc. you used to access your files

Web Archiving

Websites can be part of your digital collection too!

Web archiving includes capturing websites, their embedded content, preserving, and storing them in a separate repository for future access. Due to the changing nature of websites, web archiving ensures that we preserve information on sites as they evolve. Over time, the regular captures of one site creates a database-like environment where you can view a site's changes. 

Select Your Websites

When completing your Description of Gift Form, you'll be asked about which websites should be included or excluded from web archiving. 

  1. Select your sites (this can include social media)
  2. Note whether there are any permissions required to access the site (e.g., private Facebook group)
  3. Tell us which URLs to add to your collection
  4. On a yearly basis, re-assess whether your site(s) should continue being crawled. This could be due to:
    • the site is now static and no longer updated
    • the subject matter or focus of the site has changed and is no longer relevant