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A National Archiving Challenge

By Paul Travis, January 2, 2009 1:00 PM

Over the next few days, most people will be reflecting on 2008 and making plans for the next year. For storage administrators and IT managers, the year ahead will feature some difficult challenges -- a bad economy, tight or shrinking budgets, and more data that needs to be stored, backed up, protected, and archived. But as you ring in the New Year, take a moment and give a toast to the folks over at the National Archives and Records Administration, who face a unique challenge.

On Jan. 20, NARA will take charge of a mountain of paper documents and around 140 TB of data from the outgoing Bush administration, more than 50 times the amount of electronic information it received from the previous Clinton administration. The job is to sort, index, protect, preserve, and provide access to all paper and electronic records created by the federal government during the past eight years.

Under the law, the federal government owns and controls all presidential and vice-presidential records, and the National Archives is legally responsible for "the custody, control and preservation" of the records, according to a recent story in The New York Times. That includes "top-secret e-mail tracing plans for the Iraq war as well as scenes from the likes of Barney Cam 2008, a White House video featuring the first pet," the newspaper reported.

The National Archives has enacted an "emergency plan" to handle the records. The agency plans to take over parts of the White House storage system and freeze its contents on Jan. 20. After that, archivists will analyze the records and then move them into a new a repository for digital data, the story said.

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