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Document imaging is the conversion of paper source documents to digital source documents. It includes the scanning portion of the process and also the indexing components so that imaged documents can be retrieved, displayed, printed, etc. Per ARM 44.14.101, agencies may rely on digital records for their official record(s), so long as a Records Retention Schedule and digital migration plan are completed and approved by the State Records Committee. The benefits of having records digitally stored and electronically available must be weighed against other business and information technology requirements, such as retention periods, storage capacities and costs, migration requirements, application obsolescence, litigation holds, open government and etc.
The main requirement of agencies that use digital media for official records is to ensure they are readable and accessible for their full lifecycle. Lifecycles can range from one to three years or 30 to 300. Many records have a retention period beyond a few years. Security and preservation requirements need to be identified and addressed in order to ensure records can be made available, through an agency’s attention to refreshment cycles and technology changes, which normally occur about every four years. Technology change considerations include software versions, replacement or changes in operating systems, hardware device changes, portable or hosted storage, etc.
For further information review the State of Montana Electronic Imaging Guidelines. This document provides a platform for imaging and data compatibility, without mandating a particular vendor for hardware and software. By defining standards and recommendations, which emphasize planning and coordination, agencies can ease the technological transition and minimize legal and practical risks associated with document imaging.