Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FamilySearch as an Archive

Ed Donakey said FamilySearch wants to preserve end users' data FamilySearch is digitizing, providing access, and preserving the world’s genealogical records, said Ed Donakey in a session at the NGS Conference last Thursday. Donakey is strategic relations manager for FamilySearch.

The technical infrastructure necessary to provide access to FamilySearch’s digitized records is immense. Donakey briefly touched on one item, maintaining the Internet connection of the website’s four datacenters. FamilySearch uses redundant connections so that the website can continue to function even if an Internet connection fails. An East coast datacenter has six Internet connections. In case a particular Internet provider should fail, the six connections are distributed among several Internet providers, including Qwest, Sprint, and XO. If all six connections failed, website operations would transfer to a Utah datacenter. It is connected with three lines to the Internet. Even if eight lines failed, familysearch.org would still have full speed access, said Donakey.

“Digital preservation is imperative for us,” Donakey said. Preserving digital records has many unique problems not suffered by microfilm preservation. The ways in which you can lose digital records is hellacious. (That’s my word, not Donakey’s… We’ll, actually, it’s not my word either. But I digress…) Failures include media failure, hardware failure, software failure, communication error, network error, hardware obsolescence, software obsolescence, operator error, natural disaster, and economic failure.

The solutions are not targeted to archivists only. “FamilySearch wants to provide the tools, technology, and infrastructure for local, national, and international archives and end users to preserve their key data,” said Donakey. “We’re doing everything we can to preserve these records for our posterity.”

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