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A fifth of businesses in the banking and finance sector have no systems in place to ensure their data can still be read in years to come, according to a survey by data experts Crown Records Management.

Dominic Johnstone

Dominic Johnstone

As technology advances at an ever-faster rate the prospect of previously popular formats becoming obsolete is growing all the time.

Already files produced in Word Perfect or Lotus 123, movie clips and photographs stored in the .MOV format and information stored on floppy disks are in real danger of becoming unreadable in the very near future.

Now a survey commissioned by Crown Records Management and undertaken by Censuswide has unveiled the real size of the problem in the banking and finance sector.

The survey showed that:

  • More than one in five businesses in the sector, 21 per cent, have no system in place to preserve electronic information stored for longer than five years.
  • This was the worst figure across all sectors, alongside retail – in facilities management, for instance, the result was 0 per cent.
  • Two in five don’t upgrade their servers regularly.
  • A massive 71 per cent fail to review the formats on which electronic data is held.
  • Despite this 99 per cent in the sector said it was important to keep data readable for ten years – and 70 per cent for 50 years or more.

The one piece of good news for the sector is that 59 per cent of those polled said they were very confident of knowing how long they were legally obliged to keep data – this was the best figure across all sectors.

However Dominic Johnstone, Head of Information Management Services, at Crown Records Management, believes there is work to be done in the industry to avoid problems in future.

He said: “These results provide a real insight into what is a compelling topic – particularly in the banking and finance sector where data is so important at all levels of the business.

“Long term digital preservation hasn’t made big headlines so far but many companies may be in for a shock because the reality is that any information which is 10 years old or more is seriously at risk.

“The speed at which software and hardware evolves is forcing old formats to quickly become obsolete and there is no guarantee they will be readable in future.

“It’s amazing to see 99 per cent in the sector think that being able to access and read information in years to come is important – but then find a fifth are doing nothing about it.”

Johnstone is aware that many businesses simply store their information in the cloud in the belief it is safe; but they frequently don’t consider how, or if, it will be read in 10 or 20 years’ time.

He said: “It’s not surprising that cloud storage is so popular, it’s a relatively cheap and safe way to store information. But if the attached systems are not upgraded regularly – which doesn’t appear to be the case in the finance sector – and there is no lifecycle management in place there really is no guarantee all that information can be accessed and read when you really need it.

“When less than a third of businesses in the industry say they regularly review formats on which their electronic data is held, it’s a concern. The big worry is that many of them may find their corporate information is lost in the long term.”

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