Content Management White Paper: Archiving Content

It is a good idea to think of archiving as nothing more than a change in lifecycle stage for content. Archived content might be reusable at any time, so the notion that you are “done” with any content forever might result in missed opportunities.

The act of archiving should be directed by policy: What gets archived, why and when?

Some of your content might never be subject to archiving. For example, your corporate logo and stock photography collections are initially assumed to provide value indefinitely. But if at some point, you design a new logo or decide that some stock content is no longer suitable, you can manually archive what you no longer need.

Other content should have archiving rules defined in the policy definition of the content. An annual report might be slated for archiving a year from publication, or at the publication of the successor report, whichever comes first. A product brochure might be slated for archiving when the product is updated or discontinued. Campaign materials might be archived at the end of a campaign or never, depending on whether you expect to reuse them.

Your content system should be configured to adhere to these policies. For extra peace of mind, perhaps you have the system notify someone before content for which he is responsible is archived.

What “archive” actually means should also be defined by policy. At some organizations, it is nothing more than a status change from “Available” to “Archived.” The content remains searchable and accessible to permitted users; only the status has changed. Other organizations opt to move archived content to alternate storage media, or take it offline entirely. Some content systems can move content automatically, so the process of archiving is completely transparent to users.

As a rule, it is a good idea to keep archived content “findable” in search operations, even if those operations are limited to only a select group of users. There are many reasons for which archived content might need to be found:

  • Reports that reference older content, or indicate when older content is still in use
  • Research into older campaign performance
  • Litigation in which archived content can support the prosecution or defense
  • “Flashback” graphics or corporate heritage reports
  • Design reference for consistency or contrast

A point to remember with regard to archiving is that today’s trash can become tomorrow’s treasure. A television commercial that shows flight attendants with outdated uniforms and hairstyles might seem stale when only a few years old; but 25 years later, that same footage could become a viral Internet sensation.

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