The digital world is amazing. I mean truly, absolutely amazing. The things we are able to do today with just the swipe of a finger or the click of a mouse is stuff that dreams were made of 50 years ago. So why, in this incredible, high-tech world, do we still need microfilm? It’s a valid question, and one with which we at Imaging Systems are familiar.
Microfilm will continue to be relevant for the storage and preservation of documents because of, not in spite of, the fact that it isn’t this high-tech medium. To read microfilm, all you need is a magnifying glass and a light source. Magnifying glasses are pretty easy to come by. As for a light source…well, there is that giant ball up in the sky we call the sun. Basically, microfilm won’t all of a sudden need a software update or a new system or anything to be read. Of course, microfilm readers make the whole process of reading microfilm much easier, but in a pinch you could make-do without one.
Digitization, on the other hand, is subject to becoming obsolete. And quickly. New, “better” smartphones are coming out yearly. Software and hardware alike are constantly changing and improving. These improvements to our technological lives could leave your digital records unable to be read because of obsolete hardware. Take floppy discs. They’re basically extinct, though in their day they were thought to be an amazing technological feat. It can be hard to find computers that will read them, and if a floppy disc is damaged, it’s unreadable. Similarly, what today may seem like a perfect way to digitally store documents can easily become tomorrow’s old news.
This is not to say that digitization of documents does not have its place. Making digital copies is a great way to make your files more searchable and also protect old materials that could be damaged by handling. Digital files are a great back-up medium. But again, we think they serve best as a back-up.
With the ever-changing technological world we live in, it’s best to keep a tried and true method of storing important documents. The fact is, we just don’t have enough information on how digitally stored files last in the long run. Microfilm can last up to 500-1000 years if stored and cared for properly. The best solution, if feasible for your company, is to create a hybrid archive system that incorporates both microfilm (for security and longevity) and digital files (for greater access).