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The Choice For A Long Term Digital Preservation System

At the beginning of 2017 the IISH decided to use Archivematica as a central system for long term preservation of its digital collections. This decision was made after a thorough comparison between different systems and solutions.  This blog gives an overview of this process. A much extended version of this blog can be downloaded as a PDF.  

In 2016 the IISH started a project aimed to choose a system for the long term preservation of digital collections. The original project plan provided an overview of the gaps within the IISH digital infrastructure the new system would have to cover. An overview of these gaps can be found in the PDF.

A first selection of suitable preservation systems was made by the using the Powrr (Preserving digital Objects With Restricted Resources) tool evaluation grid which offers an exhaustive survey of digital preservation tools. The selected tools were Archivematica, Fedora, Preservica, Rosetta, Scope, Goobi, Roda and Vital. The products were investigated on the basis of online documentation, demos, and user reviews. Of these eight choices, a few were taken off the list quite quickly. Others were studied more extensively.

In the end only Archivematica and Preservica remained as serious candidates. To make a well informed choice between these products both were quite intensely tested and compared. An extensive comparison between Archivematica and Preservica can be found in the PDF. Important to notice is that this comparison was made in the beginning of 2017 between version 1.4 of Archivematica and 5.7 of Preservica. Some of the conclusions might therefor be outdated regarding newer versions of both products.

After much deliberation Archivematica was chosen as long term digital preservation system. In the end, and in essence what made us choose Archivematica were the following points:

  • More functionality in the pre-ingest phase (the transfer tab).  As a private archive we have little influence on how archives are transferred. Therefore the extra functionality that Archivematica offers for a first check and appraisal are very welcome.
  • Lesser costs: of course Archivematica, as with all open source software, does not come for free. Even without being able to account for the total cost of ownership for Archivematicain advance, the difference with the yearly licence costs of the Preservica Enterprise product are considerable. For an organization the size of the IISH this is an important point.
  • Preservica may be the more ready and finished product, however the differences are not so big that this could be – for the IISH – enough of an argument to choose Preservica over Archivematica.  Besides, both systems will require the same (one-time) development costs to connect them to the other IISH systems. The company behind Archivematica has the advantage that they are willing to do all kinds of development work for us, and also more IISH custom work, while the Preservica company only wanted to work on the Preservica core software. This was an important argument as it would relieve some of the pressure on our small IT department.
  • Although the choice for open source software was not a decisive argument in this case, the choice for Archivematica means that any money the IISH invests in new Archivematica functionalities will also benefit the rest of the Archivematica community. As the IISH is a publicly funded organisation this serves as an extra argument for Archivematica.
  • On the whole Archivematica gave the feeling that it fit better in our IT infrastructure, that we could have more influence on its development and it would be easier to adapt to our needs.