Microfilm Today


6. Management and control

Supervision of microfilm systems

One of the most important functions performed by document management software is the general "housekeeping" which is so often lacking in manually operated systems. This is a complex task because documents are often far from static. During its lifetime a document may be retrieved many times, comment may be added to it, it may be revised and re-distributed, shifted to off-line CD storage and finally converted to microfilm for archival storage. Every retrieval and all movements must be logged and the location of the document within the system must be known at all times, together with any related versions, annotations or comments. Indexes have to be constantly updated to reflect these changes.

A substantial amount of data will be devoted to recording details of each item within the system such as its source, the date when it was input, how long it is to be retained on various media types and if and when it can be destroyed. Other factors include who may access it, who is authorised to annotate or destroy it and those to whom it should automatically be sent. Records will be maintained to show that the pre-determined distribution, movement to other media or destruction have been carried out at the relevant dates. Another item of vital importance is the management of an effective backup process to permit recovery from computer failure, fire, flood or other disaster.

Other operations which have to be managed include the control of input from film and document scanners, which may involve images being received in both raster and text format or even being simultaneously recorded on microfilm. The management of the separate objects which make up compound documents such as text plus photographs on the same page is an increasingly important requirement that imposes more demands on control software, especially as the content may be required separately for use in other applications.

Records management

Most systems incorporate a mix of document types. All input is important but some items are of special value as potential evidence or because regulation or legislation dictates that they must be held for a specific period or even indefinitely. This is such an important aspect of document management that most medium and large companies designate at least one member of staff to ensure that all adopted policies are being followed and that the document management system continues to comply with changing legislation.

Regular monitoring of all processes is essential and the results must be recorded to ensure that there is proof that the system was operating correctly at any given time. This is generally known as compliance and it will differ according to the activity in which an organisation is engaged. Common factors include the need to comply with the requirements of the Inland Revenue, relevant standards, internal policy and legislation such as the Data Protection Act.

Retention & security

All document management systems provide for short to medium term storage with reasonable security. However, documents vital to the conduct of the business, documents providing evidence of compliance with legal or contractual requirements, records of agreements, internal standards, quality control documentation etc may have to be handled specially and subjected to stricter control. UK companies offering secure storage facilities and certified destruction are listed on this site.

Records management used to be an activity separated from day to day activity and entrusted to librarians. Documents classified as archival would first be processed and then sent for secure medium to long term storage and in some cases eventual destruction according to agreed procedures. Some original paper documents still have to be retained and these will be retained as before, but today an increasing amount of important documentary evidence no longer exists in paper format. Within public authorities, the Freedom of Information Act imposes a need for swift access to records; members of the public have a right to access information and records systems must meet these requirements.

Special software is available for integration with EDM where high volumes or stringent security requirements demand more than the basic EDM system can provide, but the majority of systems can maintain records of documents from entry to eventual long-term storage or destruction and control the various stages of their life-cycle. With archival records, it is particularly important that the documents are protected from alteration and that complete records are maintained to prove their authenticity.

System development can result in documents stored on outdated or replaced media or in formats that are no longer employed, having to be converted to the latest versions; otherwise outdated software and hardware must be maintained specifically to access them. Insurance policies, mortgages, government records, atomic energy records and many other document collections can span several generations of software and hardware.

Conversion to microfilm is increasingly becoming accepted as an economic, practical and fully proven solution to the long term preservation problem. Documents on film have a life expectancy of well over 100 years and their analogue (human readable) format permits retrieval on very simple equipment which will always be capable of enlarging any film produced to established standards. This concept, involving a technology with which many computer staff remain unfamiliar or regard as outdated by digital storage, is being welcomed as a method of freeing system development and ensuring long term retention. It also assists with the related problem of  disaster recovery, because copy films are inexpensive and can be stored in safe, remote locations.

Digital to microfilm conversion is widely available as a bureau service, which avoids the need for learning new techniques and acquiring expensive hardware. With modern film, even in-house production is relatively simple and a new generation of COM (Computer Output on Microfilm) recorders has been developed to accept a wide range of formats including scanned images and print formats.  Software is available to automatically compile indexes to the microfilm images and an EDM System can hold two addresses for an image, one being its digital format and the other its location on film.  Conversion to film does not have to wait until the document is no longer active but can be performed as part of the input activity. For example, a few document scanners incorporate microfilm cameras enabling them to scan and film simultaneously, specifications for these scanner/cameras are listed in our Encyclopedia of Document Management.

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1. Introduction

2. Microfilm today

3. Getting started

4. Input and output methods

5. Indexing and retrieval

6. Management and control

7. Storage and preservation

8. Hybrid systems

9. Services available

10. Standards


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