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Modern Day Rune Stones - Avoiding the digital dark ages
 
Shawn Waddoups, First Secretary Economic Affairs, U.S. Embassy; Tine Weirsøe, Managing Director and Owner, Scandinvian Information Audit; Jan Dalsten Sørensen, Head of Section for Digital Archiving, Danish National Archives; and Søren Eltorp, CEO, Iron Mountain A/S.

In a more and more digitalized world, it can be can be difficult to differentiate between, which data is worth saving, which data need to be saved according to Danish, European and international law and what kind of a footprint we want to leave for the next generation. These are just a few of the mysteries unraveled by experts at AmCham Denmark's first Business After Hours of 2011, hosted by Iron Mountain on Thursday, January 27 at the U.S. Embassy.

Mountains of records
The business records environment is massive, explained Iron Mountain CEO Søren Eltorp. There are literally exabytes of electronic records and billions of paper documents archived in Denmark alone.  Storage is one issue, but even more important, he notes, is access to the stored data. "It must be secure, fast, cost-effective and easy," says Eltorp.

Clear direction
"The message – the data – needs to be stored on or in a secure media, for it to survive more than just 10, 15 or 20 years. And we need to think about, that future recipients need help in interpreting the data," Jan Dalsten Sørensen, historian and Head of Section for Digital Archiving at Danish National Archives said.

His point was illustrated with the more than 1000 year old Jellinge rune stone in the background. The stone – with all its runes solidly printed on everlasting material – has left a clear greeting from the past.  With this as a stepping stone, Jan Dalsten Sørensen pointed out the necessity in having a complete, safe and solid system for saving, preserving and accessing digital information.
 
"Many of the data we work with today, are born digital and stay digital. So the quality of where and how we store our data, is essential. 20 years is a long time in a digital world, but if we want to leave anything for future  generations it’s up to us to figure out, not only how we physically save the data but also how we make it understandable, so it’s not just a pile of bits and bytes," the historian pointed out.

The burning platform
Tine Weirsøe, Managing Director and owner of Scandinavian Information Audit, took the data retention, storage and saving into the context of Danish, European and international law.

"Many companies today don’t have a data policy. They don’t think about it until it all gets lost or the Danish Data Protection Agency (Da. Datatilsynet) suddenly shows up. It becomes the company’s burning platform for initiating such a policy," Tine Weirsøe pointed out.

She also discussed the laws on data policies, pointing out for the participants that it’s not enough for an international company to just follow Danish rules and regulations concerning data retention and storage. European and international law also need to be considered when developing a data policy. Tine Weirsøe pointed out that European companies have a real risk of drowning in data, as they save everything “just in case.”   With the estimated growth in records each year at a staggering 52%, this practice has some significant pitfalls: Inefficient use of time in terms of document retrieval; potential security breaches; risk of losing documents; and not least, significant costs in storage and archiving.

The bottom line
Regardless of whether you are storing paper or digital documents, two things are essential according to the experts. First, a company or entity must identify early on which data are business critical and create a policy to preserve this data. Second, it is important to archive the data so that it is easily accessible and in open formats. Definitely some things for the companies in attendance to reflect upon when it comes to their own data storage.

The discussion continued over the networking session following the presentations where guests enjoyed fine American wines and canapés provided by the Embassy’s The Diplomat restaurant.

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