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Working with data: Non-digital data

Guide on working with data

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Storing non-digital data

Non-digital data should be stored where it will not get damp or fade. You should avoid storing magnetic tape near a strong magnetic field. Ensure that data is filed according to an agreed system so that it can be easily retrieved. If the data is sensitive, ensure that it is kept in a locked filing cabinet or safe; at least two people, but only those with rights to read the data, should have the key or combination. 

An additional way of protecting the data against loss is to make copies and store the copies separately. It is usually most efficient to take a digital copy and store it alongside your digital data. However, if your data contains identifiable personal information it should be stored in an encrypted, restricted access folder. 

Digitising non-digital data

Anything stored on paper can be scanned fairly easily, for more information, see the Library's guide to scanning with managed print service. If you are scanning sensitive data, we recommend scanning to an encrypted USB rather than to your network drive, as this prevents additional copies being made on intermediate systems. You should, however, transfer the data to a secured network storage aso soon as possible; then store the USB securely until you are ready to ask your IT supporter to perform secure data deletion. 

If scanning is impractical, you may be able to take a high quality digital photograph instead. Ensure that the photo has sufficient contrast and that the details are not obscured by compression artefacts. 

Video or audio recordings can be easily turned into digital files, if the full content is important. If only the words are needed, they can be transcribed and the video or audio data deleted (securely if they are video or audio data of people). Computing Services can help you to securely delete any personal data from your devices. The Audio Visual Unit lends out transcription equipment if you want to do the transcription yourself. Alternatively you could employ a transcription service - but be aware of the legal aspects of transferring personal data to transcription services, ensure that personal data are only transferred over a secure connection (https or sftp) using password protected links, and be cautious when using online transcription services where the location of their servers is unknown.

If you plan to replace your non-digital originals with digitised versions you should: 

  • write a procedure explaining how you will digitise the materials, and how you will check the quality of your digital copies
  • keep a log of which materials were digitised when, and by whom
  • keep a log of which digital copies were checked for quality when, and by whom.