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Introduction to Web Resource Preservation


Institutions now create huge amounts of Web-based resources and the strategic importance of these is finally being recognised. Long-term stewardship of these resources by their owners is increasingly becoming a topic of interest and necessity.

What is Web 'Preservation'?

Digital preservation is defined as a "series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary" [1]. In the case of Web resources you may choose to go for:

  • Protection: Protecting a resource from loss or damage, in the short term, is an acceptable form of "preservation", even if you don't intend to keep it for longer than, say, five years.
  • Perpetual preservation It is best to think of this as long-term preservation where 'long-term is defined as "long enough to be concerned with the impacts of changing technologies, including support for new media and data formats, or with a changing user community" [2].

Why Preserve?

There are a number of drivers for Web resource preservation:

  • To protect your organisation: Web sites may contain evidence of organisational activity which is not recorded elsewhere and may be lost if the Web site is not archived or regular snapshots are not taken. There are legal requirements to comply with acts such as FOI and DPA.
  • It could save you money: Web resources cost money to create, and to store; failing to repurpose and reuse them will be a waste of money.
  • Responsibility to users: Organisations have a responsibility to the people who use their resource and to the people who may need to use their resources in the future. People may make serious choices based on Web site information and there is a responsibility to keep a record of the publication programme. Many resources are unique and deleting them may mean that invaluable scholarly, cultural and scientific resources (heritage records) will be unavailable to future generations.

Whose Responsibility is it?

There are a number of parties who may have an interest in the preservation of Web resources. These may include the producer of the resource (Individual level), the publisher of the resource, the organisation, the library (Organisational Level), the cultural heritage sector, libraries and archives, the government, consortiums (National Level) or international organisations, commercial companies (International level). Within organisations the Web team, records management team, archives and information managers will all need to work together.

What Resources?

The JISC Preservation of Web Resources (PoWR) project [3] recommends a selective approach (as oppose to full domain harvesting). This won't necessarily mean preserving every single version of every single resource and may not always mean "keeping forever", as permanent preservation is not the only viable option. Your preservation actions don't have to result in a "perfect" solution but once decided upon you must manage resources in order to preserve them. An unmanaged resource is difficult, if not impossible, to preserve. Periodic snapshots of a Web site can also be useful and could sit alongside a managed solution.

How Do I Preserve Web Resources?

Web preservation needs to be policy-driven. It is about changing behaviour and consistently working to policies. As a start an organisation might go about creating a Web resource preservation strategy. Some of the following questions will be worth considering: What Web resources have you got? Where are they? Why have you got them? Who wants them? For how long? What protection policies do you have?

Ways of finding out the answers to these questions include a survey, research, asking your DNS manager. Once you have found your resources you need to appraise them and select which require preserving. The next step is to move copies of your resources into archival storage. Once this process is completed the resources will need to be managed in some way. For further information see the Web Archiving briefing paper [4].


  1. Digital Preservation Coalition Definitions, Digital Preservation Coalition, <>
  2. Digital preservation, Wikipedia, <>
  3. JISC PoWR blog site, <>
  4. Web Archiving, Cultural heritage briefing paper no. 53, UKOLN, <>
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