A sinking feeling over document migration
- By William Matthews
- Mar 16, 2000
A new information technology crisis is looming, many times larger than the
Year 2000 problem, technology expert Rich Lysakowski says. It's the problem
of electronic document migration.
Millions of electronic documents are becoming unreadable as new hardware
and software systems are developed and old ones are abandoned. To be saved,
old documents must be migrated to formats that will be readable by tomorrow's
computer systems. But the task of migrating documents, and the cost of information
lost from documents not migrated, will amount to "hundreds of trillions
of dollars over the next 30 to 40 years," Lysakowski predicted.
Lysakowski has christened the looming migration problem "Titanic 2020" after
the massive luxury liner that sank and the year he expects migration costs
to become oppressive.
By comparison, the international effort to keep computers operating through
the Year 2000 date change cost about $750 billion, said Lysakowski, who
is executive director of the Collaborative Electronic Notebook System Association.
The association is an organization of IT makers and users that promotes
the development of advanced electronic recordkeeping systems.
The problem and cost could be minimized if IT users agreed on a common format
for electronic documents. But so far, that's not happening, Lysakowski told
an electronic documents conference Thursday. Software developers focus on
the money they can earn by developing new programs quickly and often; they
do not design formats designed to last the 20 or 50 or years that electronic
documents must be kept, he said.
Many electronic records managers are counting on the new Internet language
XML to become the common standard and eliminate the need for future document
migrations. "XML is a shining star on the horizon," Lysakowski agreed. "But
the problem with a star is it never touches the ground. We're always running
toward the horizon."