Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Technology and Archaeology: From Gadgets to Practical Innovations.

Over the past few months, our office has been going through a technological metamorphosis.  Sadly, I cannot report that we have purchased a new super computer, ground penetrating radar machine, or the latest GPS.  No, this technological revolution has involved many of the more mundane aspects of the digital age.  This blog is one of the more exciting of those technological innovations short of the great, geeky, gadget euphoria that follows the purchase of new gear.

We have been implementing changes on a number of technological fronts in order to make our company a leaner, meaner, more organized, and more engaged entity.  One of our first tasks has been the organization and standardization of our digital data into uniform and redundant storage.  Years worth of progress reports, digital photographs, PowerPoint presentations, research resources, and, last but not least, final reports were complied and sorted from their disparate locations on various hard drives and data discs into one central repository, which was backed up to another hard drive and burned to optical discs. 

The centralization of this data, while enabling the very practical purpose of being easy to back up, also allows us easy access to our past digital efforts, especially digital photographs and collected research materials.  This allows us an opportunity to share projects that we have been involved in with readers of this blog and those who follow us on Facebook, increasing public engagement with their cultural resources.  The centralization of our data also allows us quick access to digital research materials, eliminating the need to re-locate resources, increasing our efficiency.

The organization of our data also provides a blueprint for storing data moving forward.  Every user and employee has a unique method of organizing their work at their station while completing projects.  Some are “lumpers”, that is users that organize data into large folders under simple file hierarchies, while others are “splitters”, that is users that form complex file hierarchies to organize their data.  One of the goals of our data centralization project was to find a happy medium between lumpers and splitters that presents a uniform workspace for data storage for all users.  This means that each employee only has to learn one form of file hierarchy in order to access data. 

Some concerns had to be addressed in order to make a central data system feasible.  Chief among these concerns was security.  No personal or sensitive company information is shared in the central system.  The purpose of the system is to increase access to shared company resources, not to divulge company information to every employee or leave us vulnerable to an outside threat.  Secondly, a universal naming system for files and folders had to be established in order to keep the system organized and easy to back up.  This included careful attention to details such as not nesting too many folders, a problem that leads to long file location names and difficulties in copying the resources to other company computers or storage media.  Lastly, a maintenance schedule needed to be established in order to trim the fat from the file system and keep it backed up.  If your hard drive hasn’t failed yet, you are lucky, but it is always important to remember the possibility is a constant threat.  Optical discs, such as cds, dvds, and blu-rays, also have a limitedshelf life for data, and are susceptible to environmental strain or misuse.      

We have just completed our first project using the central data system and it has been a resounding success.  Now all employees know where to access data and how to keep up with project inertia. 

What sorts of inter-office data sharing problems have you encountered and how have you addressed those issues?

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