Getting to the Bottom Line: 20 Cost Questions for Digital Preservation

Last Fall the MetaArchive reported out on a helpful resource brought forward by our Outreach Committee. This was our comprehensive FAQ for institutions interested in learning more about the Cooperative’s unique distributed approach to digital preservation. The goal of that resource was not just to answer questions in rote fashion, but to openly and honestly cover the terrain of tough questions that our staff and members are routinely confronted with from prospective institutions. For example, “Is MetaArchive a Trustworthy Digital Repository?,” “Why should I select MetaArchive as a preservation solution?,” and “How much does it cost to participate in MetaArchive?”.

For each of these questions the Outreach Committee aimed to not only be concise and straight-forward but also point institutions deeper into our website where they could obtain more information to help inform their thinking about MetaArchive as a solution of choice. The MetaArchive, rooted in the public good, prides itself on being a force for transparency for the sake of its member institutions and for the benefit of the broader digital preservation community. Take that last question above as a case in point: “How much does it cost to participate in MetaArchive?”

Year after year, both in our publicly available membership agreement, and on our website, the MetaArchive has made available the full range of costs for participating in this community-based solution. Transparency in the area of costs is of vital importance as the digital preservation community matures and more and more services, both community-based and commercial, come online. In order to make wise and sustainable decisions for their digital assets, institutions need easy and convenient access to as much cost information as can be made reliably available.

costquestions1In the spirit of tackling tough questions for the sake of transparency, the Outreach Committee is pleased to make available yet another concise and straight-forward resource. Getting to the Bottom Line: 20 Cost Questions for Digital Preservation is a simple, easy-to-use handout that aims to cover yet another terrain of tough questions. As much as institutions would like for cost information to be open and available, often times getting to the true cost of long-term preservation comes down to a one-shot conversation with a solution provider representative. If you don’t know what questions to ask in the moment you might miss out on significant pieces of information.

Getting to the Bottom Line: 20 Cost Questions for Digital Preservation is (with a dose of comical irony in its title) an effort to get beyond opaque “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe” responses to questions about the full range of up-front, recurring, and sometimes hidden costs that accompany participation in a digital preservation solution. Below are some examples of the questions that our own members have deemed essential for getting to the bottom of the cost equation:

  1. How has the solution provider’s licensing, subscription, or member fees increased or decreased over the past three years, and why?
  2. How often is the fee structure reviewed? And how are fees set?
  3. How are customers/subscribers/members consulted during any such reviews?
  4. How does the solution provide for increases in storage capacity? And how do these increases affect fees, if at all?

Along with these probing questions about the basic costs of participation and storage fees the resource also aims to help institutions unpack the costs of other important facets of digital preservation, including ingest, retrieval, data deletion, fiscal transparency and the long-term sustainability of the solution.

Our hope is that Getting to the Bottom Line: 20 Cost Questions for Digital Preservation can be a helpful starting point for equipping single institutions with the data they need to make confident decisions. We also hope that it will encourage solution providers to make more and more information publicly available so that the broader community can advance the conversation about the economics of digital preservation.

Be sure to check it out!