Levels of Digital Preservation

Background and Overview

The NDSA launched its Levels of Digital Preservation (LoP) guidelines in 2013 as a tiered set of recommendations on how organizations should begin to build or enhance their digital preservation activities. They function as a key tool to help practitioners of all levels deploy a sustainable digital preservation strategy. Since that time practitioners across the globe have been working with the guidelines and some have been extending and adapting them.

The original intent of the LoP was to create tiered set of recommendations for either preservation practitioners who were just starting out or for those looking to deepen their preservation strategy. Not meant as a comprehensive preservation strategy but rather a lightweight tool to encourage organizations to think through preservation issues. The LoP were organized into five functional areas that are at the heart of digital preservation systems: storage and geographic location, file fixity and data integrity, information security, metadata, and file formats. By design, they do not cover policy staffing, or other organizational considerations. They are considered to be a technological implementation of a variety of preservation decisions and are utilized by many organizations across the country and even internationally.

With the current rapid changes in technology, a document that functions as the technological implementation of a preservation strategy, needs updating after 5 years. In addition, after 5 years of active use, users have expressed the need to add features and considerations.

NDSA responded by creating a Levels of Preservation Working group with multiple subgroups to take on the task of updating the Levels and developing additional resources around the Levels grid. Learn more about the LOP Working group and subgroups.

Levels of Digital Preservation V2.0

The updated Levels of Digital Preservation Grid is shown below. The previous categories of storage and geographic location, file fixity and data integrity, information security, metadata, and file formats have been renamed to storage, integrity, control, metadata, and content. These changes were made as the team wanted the Levels to feature actions independent of specific formats, content types, and storage systems, thus enhancing their usability across domains.

Levels of Digital Preservation, Version 2.0

The revision has realigned the levels so that they have a stronger progressive implication, and each level naturally builds upon the prior one to guide a repository into greater maturity. However, organizational priorities and resources may still result in an organization achieving certain variables in a higher level before they resolve earlier ones.

The Levels of Digital Preservation Matrix is available on the NDSA OSF site.

Revision Working Group

The Revision Working group produced the updated Levels of Digital Preservation grid as well as supporting documentation.

Other Supporting Documentation

Levels of Preservation Working Group

Find more information on the Levels of Preservation Working Group on their webpage.

It is expected that the Levels of Digital Preservation will continue to be updated over time as additional feedback is received, experience is gained implementing its recommendations and as empirical research provides detailed information about data loss. For this reason, each iteration of the Levels will be versioned.

Original Levels of Digital Preservation (2013)

The original Levels of Digital Preservation (Proceedings of the Archiving (IS&T) Conference, April 2013, Washington, DC) are still available for use and reference.