TO: Public Records Custodians
SUBJECT: Backing up and Archiving of Electronic Records
EXPIRATION DATE: Until superseded
PURPOSE: This bulletin provides guidance for the protection and storage of public records in electronic format through the use of back ups and archiving.
Government information created and maintained by electronic systems is an important public resource. Proper administration of this information entails protecting it from a variety of hazards, and preserving portions of it for future reference and use. Two different, although frequently confused, methods are used to secure these ends.
Good business practice requires that security copies or backups of electronic records be made periodically to guard against data loss. Backup generally entails the copying of the entire system content to disk or tape for off-site storage. The frequency of the back up is determined by business needs but is generally on a weekly or daily basis. Since these copies are designed to protect against business interruption, they are generally overwritten and reused once that need is past.
Because the backups contain the undifferentiated system content, however, they should not be used for longer-term off-line data storage. Such use is an uneconomic use of media and puts data at risk of inadvertent loss since the backup is, by definition, destined for erasure. Where off-line data storage is needed, data should be archived to dedicated disk or tape libraries, allowing for easy identification and retrieval of information.
Backups of electronic media are security copies the creation, retention and reuse of which are mandated by the business needs of the organization. The content, organization, and intended use of backups does not render them desirable as a medium for prolonged off-line storage of data.
Backup and archiving requirements apply to all computer environments, but will be implemented by different personnel depending on the environment. In a mainframe or network environment, systems and network administrators will implement backup and archiving. In a PC environment, implementation must be at the level of the individual user.
1. Offices should implement policies governing the backing up and archiving of information in electronic media specifying frequency of backup, and identifying those records to be archived.
2. As copies, rather than original records, data on backup tapes and disks may be erased, overwritten or otherwise destroyed without the permission of the Supervisor of Public Records or the Records Conservation Board. Backups need not and will not be included on disposal schedules approved by the Supervisor or the Records Conservation Board.
3. Off-line storage of data should be to dedicated archive disks and tapes. Standard practices for identification and retrieval of archived data should be implemented.
4. Archive disks and tapes constitute original records and must be listed on records disposal schedules approved by the Supervisor of Public Records or the Records Conservation Board. Information contained in these records may not be destroyed without the permission of the Supervisor of Public Records or the Records Conservation Board.
Questions regarding access to public records should be directed to:
Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to:
Records Management Unit
Massachusetts State Archives at Columbia Point
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125