Utah Department of Administrative Services

Division of Archives & Records Service

Imaging Systems Guidelines

Effective Date: August 2001

Imaging systems include any high-density storage and rapid retrieval system used in information and image processing. This refers to data in a graphics format (such as tiff) stored on magneto-optical disks, CD, DVD, or magnetic tape, plus any indexing systems or databases used to retrieve imaged records. The index data may be either keyed in or character-read by software to correspond to specific fields on the image. Imaging systems all record information digitally, as records are scanned into and accessed through the computer.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Imaging systems are valuable tools that may be used to reduce paper in the office and promote efficient files management practices for records with a high reference rate or those which need to be integrated with other electronic systems. Retention schedules are still in effect for imaged records, however, and the data must be retained for the same length of time (and be just as readable throughout that life span) as their original paper counterparts.

Magneto-optical systems using 5 1/4 or 3 1/2 inch disks follow industry standards from one vendor to another-an improvement over past years, but they require hardware that is not as prevalent as are CD drives. DVD drives, on the other hand, have the potential to become as wide-spread as CDs, essentially replacing them. Shelf life for all types of disks may extend beyond 30 years, but the media deteriorate over time and there is no warning when the disk is about to fail. If any part of the disk fails, all of the data are unreadable. Other media types such as magnetic tape do show gradual signs of deterioration, so there is warning if the data are about to be lost. The primary issue for long-term records is not usually how long any one media type remains readable, but how long the hardware and software will be available to read it. All of the data will need to be migrated onto the next generation of media every few years. For records whose retention is beyond 10 years, data migration can become expensive.

Use of paper and microfilm should always be thoroughly investigated to see if they can provide most of the same benefits achieved through imaging, since the cost is much less and neither is prone to technological obsolescence or the maintenance requirements inherent with electronic records. For instance, inactive paper files can be stored off-site at the State Records Center free of charge to agencies. Those files may be retrieved if needed, the turnaround time being about 24 hours. Microfilm can be indexed to go automatically to specific points in the film, such as the beginning of a case file. Microfilm machines can also auto-load film. According to anecdotal reports, the lapse time between waiting for data on disk in a jukebox to come up and that of loading microfilm and jumping to the indexed point is often equal.

Legality

The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), in UCA 63G-2-103(22)(a) states that "Record" means a book, letter, document, paper, map, plan, photograph, film, card, tape, recording, electronic data, or other documentary material regardless of physical form or characteristics: (i) that is prepared, owned, received, or retained by a governmental entity or political subdivision; and (ii) where all of the information in the original is reproducible by photocopy or other mechanical or electronic means.

The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act explicitly states legal recognition of electronic records, electronic signatures, and electronic contracts under 46-4-201:

(1) A record or signature may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.
(2) A contract may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because an electronic record was used in its formation.
(3) If a law requires a record to be in writing, an electronic record satisfies the law.
(4) If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law.

Are records admissible as evidence in court? Yes they are. UCA 78-25-16.5 says

(1) As used in this section, "business" includes business, profession, occupation, and calling of every kind.
(2) In any court in this state, any writing or record, whether in the form of an entry in a book or otherwise, made as a memorandum or record of any act, transaction, occurrence, or event, shall be admissible as evidence of that act, transaction, occurrence, or event, if made in the regular course of any business, and if it was the regular course of the business to make the memorandum or record at the time of the act, transaction, occurrence, or event or within a reasonable time thereafter.
(3) All circumstances, other than those set forth in Subsection (2), of the making of the writing or record, including lack of personal knowledge by the entrant or maker, may be shown to affect its weight, but those circumstances do not affect its admissibility.

To summarize, electronic records are official records, and they are admissible if they are created in the regular course of business.

Recommendations

Due to technological obsolescence and related problems, the Utah State Archives recommends that magneto-optical disks only be used as the sole storage medium for records to be retained 10 years or less. Permanent and long-term records must be stored on another backup medium. Records stored on CD or DVD (which are only recommended as the sole media for records whose loss would pose a low risk for agencies) or magnetic tape should follow the guidelines stated in the Archives' Draft Guidelines for Long-Term and Permanent Electronic Records, as should any indexing system or database associated with the imaged records. Agencies may choose paper or microfilm as their backup media for imaged records. Microfilm must adhere to archival standards.