Archiving and heritage

Archiving can have several bases. You may like to archive, as a museum or library does. Or records are filed because they have to be, because you are the government or because you have to keep documents for a certain period of time. So archive because you want to, or because you have to.

Always advantageous

Whatever your motivation, it always costs money. If you want to archive, the willingness to pull out the wallet is somewhat greater than in the case of should. But you can also enjoy the benefits in the case of having to archive. If you file properly, you can find all kinds of things. What is a particular customer’s order history and what did they pay at the time? Data is a valuable resource.

Do it right!

The next question then is: how do you store it properly? It only gets expensive if you don’t store it properly. If you let mail sit in your exchange server or leave documents you don’t use much on fast, expensive storage, it takes up unnecessary space. Each time it is backed up and migrated again with new hardware. All unnecessary costs. But if you place your static data in an archive, you are using slower but cheaper storage. Your primary, expensive storage, gets smaller and cheaper and requires less maintenance. That’s double profit, and the savings usually exceed the cost of the archive.

Archive your E-mail!

To return to e-mail archiving for a moment: that is becoming more and more topical. Many mailboxes bulge and take up a lot of space. On top of that, governments will be required to retain data from emails. So you have to file that properly. The storage capacity of a mail server is not that large, but it requires a powerful processor. Overflowing mailboxes slow down the system, so by investing in archiving for mail, you save not only on expensive, primary storage but also on power from your processor.


Several years ago, the Royal Library placed one whole petabyte (1,000 terabytes) of Silent Bricks. With the increasing amount of data and all kinds of applications, the need for storage space is greater than ever.

For the KB, it is nice that it is possible to expand the amount of storage space incrementally. That way, you won’t be “stuck” with storage space you’re not yet using for an extended period of time, including the associated costs. This incremental expansion eventually led to one petabyte of Silent Bricks.


Vendor-neutral archives are important to avoid a so-called vendor lock-in, the dependence on a particular manufacturer. A vendor lock-in is annoying and often expensive when the manufacturer in question charges for each change (e.g., because a new operating system becomes necessary) or for a migration new licenses. Not only annoying and expensive, but sometimes dramatic, a vendor-lock-in becomes, however, when the manufacturer on whom the functioning of the archive depends no longer exists, and the archive data is therefore no longer accessible or migratable at all.

For long-term storage, it is therefore extremely important to have a system where (static) information can be retrieved, accessed and moved at all times, without requiring the support in any form from one or more manufacturers.

What about the other storage media mentioned? Microfilm and CDs/DVDs are standardized media; the associated reading devices are produced by multiple manufacturers. Even though with CD and DVD readers these are now only two or three we can still consider these media manufacturer independent for now(!). The Silent Cubes do not require a special reading device, so this question does not apply here.

The SilentCubes are accessed not through a file system but through a standard network share, so the file system question is not important here.

Thus, when asking about vendor neutrality of an archive, both hardware and software must be considered. With CDs, DVDs and SilentCubes, we are not dependent on the manufacturer regarding hardware – these media are readable with any operating systems and hardware components worldwide with open standards. Even then, we must ensure that the data on these media are written in a software format that can be read and migrated independently of manufacturers, to indeed have a vendor-neutral archive.

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