National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Updating Digital Data to Newer Formats

Person loading HDDT onto ingest drive

High Density Digital Tape (HDDT) load onto an ingest drive. Image derived from the High Density Digital Tape (HDDT) Landsat Data Recovery video. (Credit: Jennifer Oeding, USGS EROS Center. Public domain.)

Formats for digital records are constantly changing, and the extensive records of information about earth science samples and the data that derive from them must be constantly updated to more modern media.  Resource constraints require choices in the types of information that should be prioritized for updating as time and funding allow (e.g., field records, photos in digital form, logs of drilling, publications, etc.).   Specific databases, specific file formats, and differing resolution for graphics in use at repositories may control the methods of digital updating.  

The retention of obsolete computer and other hardware may be necessary to perform digital updating.  Digital updating may be systematically performed at the time of inventory of samples or data archives, or may be a discrete separate process.  Similarly, policies may vary for updating digital records in direct connection with management of metadata.  Serving of data to clients is a central goal of nearly all repositories, and methods of serving (internet, compact discs, GIS servers, physical exchange of high capacity hard drives) may vary.  Both proprietary and open source software is available for updating digital records, and preferences may vary between facilities.

Information, whether digital or of other types, is made available to clients of sample and data repositories by means of several formats, including websites, typically with extensive links to information organized by category; publications originating in and issuing from the institutions (“in-house publications”), including periodical or other newsletters; and the distribution of discs or other high information density devices that are mailed upon request or sold to clients.