Resource: Articles

Why converting from microfiche brings multiple benefits

If you have old records to keep, converting them from microfiche to digital copies brings such a wide array of benefits it makes no sense not to do it.


Why converting from microfiche brings multiple benefits

Microfiche is a wonderful thing. It offers a means of taking printed information and shrinking it down in size, which can then be loaded onto a scroll of film and stored in a secure place. It can be rolled out onto a microfiche projector machine and this will enable something that might have been lost to be read.

However, there is a context to this. Microfiche is wonderful because, for many years, it provided the best means of storing large quantities of data at scale, removing risks such as original paper copies fading away, being destroyed by pests or mold, or getting obliterated by fire.

Microfiche was actually invented in the 19th century, but it was from the 1920s onwards it was put to practical use. Indeed, from the 1930s the New York Times was one of the first newspapers to use it to preserve old copies of the paper, although many older copies of newspapers around the world have been saved for posterity through this method.

However, digitization now offers an upgrade. What microfiche did in compressing and storing data more efficiently and securely is something that digital storage in the cloud can do even better.

If using microfiche could mean less physical storage space was needed, that is even truer of digital storage via the cloud. Moreover, because microfiche is physical, it means anyone wanting to access it has to go to a specific geographical location to view it. That can be a particular problem if you live upstate a long way from the city library or records offices.

Secondly, the facilities that store microfiche are not open all the time. Public facilities will be closed at night, at weekends and the holidays. That means if you need access at unusual hours, it won’t be possible.

Thirdly, there is a practical speed issue. With a microfiche, the information you need might be right in the middle of a roll, so you will have to painstakingly wind your way through to reach it. Digital storage enables you to pin down the information by filters such as topic headlines or dates, so you can get to the information faster.

Fourthly, there is the matter of physical security. Fire or floods can destroy all manner of records and while microfiche records can often be kept in fire-resistant metal cabinets, unless everything around them is completely secure and fireproof, there is always a risk. That level of security is difficult to achieve in publicly accessible buildings.

A final reason why you should switch from microfiche to digital is that, while the microfiche film itself will last for up to a hundred years, the fact that others are switching to digital means that equipment to use microfiche is getting harder to find. This means anytime it needs replacing, you will be faced with a difficult task acquisition task.  

There is no doubt that microfiche has played an invaluable role in helping preserve data from the past and for that we should all be thankful. But it is becoming increasingly obsolete, especially when compared with the advantages digitization offers.

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