How To Use

You can, of course, simply browse this site to learn more about the different aspects and steps of digital preservation practices. If you’d like to use this site more programmatically, follow the instructions below and then proceed to the steps needed to advance your practice.

  1. You will first need an assessment of the digital preservation practices at your institution. You can do this yourself, by going through each of the NDSA’s five categories – Storage and Geographic Location; File Fixity and Data Integrity; Information Security; Metadata; and File Formats – and assigning your institution a level for each, from 0 to 4. Alternatively, if you or someone from your institution filled out our survey in the Spring of 2016 ( see participant list ), you may also contact Devin Becker ( to receive our (admittedly subjective) assessment.

  2. Once you have your assessment, you can go directly to any of or our sections to determine which steps you might be able to take to improve your digital preservation practices in one of the five areas. Simply take your score from that section, and then go to the subsection on how to move from your level to the next. For example, if you are at Level 1 for Information Security, you would go to the section titled  “Level 1 → Level 2.” In that subsection, you will find instructions, links to resources, and specific steps that will help you improve your practices in that area.

One note: often an institution may be doing a variety of digital preservation actions that might be greater than or less than their assigned level. It’s advised that when doing this exercise, participants also look at levels previous to where they are assigned to make sure they’re fulfilling those steps as well.  

Central Ideas

  • Digital Preservation Policy - Creating a digital preservation policy will help you fulfill many of these recommendations.
  • Additional Storage - Adding another copy of your archive is important; moving that copy to a different region with a different disaster type is also important.
  • Chain of Trust - File fixity and data integrity is geared towards establishing a chain of trust in the lifecycle of your archival files.
  • Inventories - Creating inventories of files, file formats, and metadata is a great start to your practice
  • Logs and Permissions - Record and identify permissions for users and log security and transformation events for your files.
  • File Formats - Know which formats are open and built for use now and in the future.

File Fixity & Data Integrity File Formats Metadata Information Security Storage & Geographic Location

Original National Digital Stewardship Alliance Levels of Digital Preservation Table

Level 1 (Protect your data)

Level 2 (Know your data)

Level 3 (Monitor your data)

Level 4 (Repair your data)

File Fixity and Data Integrity

  • Check file fixity on ingest if it has been provided with the content
  • Create fixity info if it wasn’t provided with the content
  • Check fixity on all ingests
  • Use write-blockers when working with original media
  • Virus-check high risk content
  • Check fixity of content at fixed intervals
  • Maintain logs of fixity info; supply audit on demand
  • Ability to detect corrupt data - Virus-check all content
  • Check fixity of all content in response to specific events or activities
  • Ability to replace/repair corrupted data
  • Ensure no one person has write access to all copies

File Formats

  • When you can give input into the creation of digital files encourage use of a limited set of known open formats and codecs
  • Inventory of file formats in use
  • Monitor file format obsolescence issues
  • Perform format migrations, emulation and similar activities as needed


  • Inventory of content and its storage location
  • Ensure backup and non-collocation of inventory
  • Store administrative metadata
  • Store transformative metadata and log events
  • Store standard technical and descriptive metadata
  • Store standard preservation metadata

Information Security

  • Identify who has read, write, move and delete authorization to individual files
  • Restrict who has those authorizations to individual files
  • Document access restrictions for content
  • Maintain logs of who performed what actions on files, including deletions and preservation actions
  • Perform audit of logs

Storage and Geographic Location

  • Two complete copies that are not collocated
  • For data on heterogeneous media (optical discs, hard drives, etc.) get the content off the medium and into your storage system
  • At least three complete copies - At least one copy in a different geographic location
  • Document your storage system(s) and storage media and what you need to use them
  • At least one copy in a geographic location with a different disaster threat
  • Obsolescence monitoring process for your storage system(s) and media
  • Perform format migrations, emulation and similar activities as needed