Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Nov 14 2011   9:45AM GMT

Microfilming of records

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Microfilming of old records is an area which has largely been ignored by CIOs. Apart from a few companies in the banking and financial sector and some government departments, most have not made use of this technology. The decision to microfilm old documents has largely been taken by functional departments; but the CIO, in my opinion, can take a lead here and explore application of this solution in his organization.

What is Microfilming?

Microfilms are films containing micro-reproductions of documents for transmission, storage, reading, and printing. These are essentially photographs of documents and are images commonly reduced to about one twenty-fifth of the original document size.

Microfilming, also called microphotography, consists in the reduction of images to such a small size that they cannot be read without optical assistance. Such a photographic compression often results in a ninety-nine percent saving of space. With the advancement in the field of documentary reproduction, the function of this facility is not only restricted to storage but also classification, and retrieval. The usefulness of this medium is significant as many documents deteriorate over time because of the poor quality of paper and print.

Common use of microfilms

Microfilming is a widely used practice in the government as also in banks and financial institutions. The huge volume of public records in government and customer records in banks, for example, make up a good case for microfilming.
In companies, this has been used for storing several documents that are statutorily required to be kept for several years. For example, accounting records are required to be preserved for eight years by the Companies Act and the Income Tax Act. Similarly other Acts such as Central Excise Act, Sales Tax Act etc. have their own stipulations. Some companies have also used for this medium for preserving old legal files, employee personnel records, customer records etc.

Safety and security

Besides saving space, the most important feature of this medium is document integrity and information security. Preservation of rare and deteriorating documents is considered one of the most important purposes in micro-recording. Valuable rare documents are now being microfilmed to preserve them from loss and destruction. Moreover it must be protected against loss, which would be irrecoverable in the case of valuable documents, records or rare books. Several duplicates of microfilmed documents can be made available, while the original documentation may be kept in archival storage or may, in fact, be destroyed. For additional security, negatives and positives can be stored in different places; being of small bulk, it can be specially protected. The film, if properly processed it will last much longer than the originals.

Advocating its use

In my opinion, it’s time CIOs examined this solution and evaluated its use in their organizations. The advantages are substantial as by freeing up space used by these documents they can save huge rentals, the method enables quick access and retrieval and it ensures their safe keeping much better than what is possible with traditional methods with physical documents.

In my next dispatch, I will explain my experiences with the use of microfilming and the benefits we got from the usage.

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