Perspectives On What “Archiving” Means in Content Management

By Deane Barker

In content management, “archiving” is a pretty common word. Systems allow for “archiving,” or there are “archive” buttons on the interface, “managing content archiving” is a bullet in a job description, etc.

But there’s no accepted definition for it. What does it mean, exactly?

I appears to mean any one of the following:

  • Move it from a common place of viewing to a less common place (but keep it available to the public)
  • Remove it from public view, but keep it available for editors (presumably to “unarchive” it at some time?)
  • Move it somewhere else in the admin interface where people won’t trip over it
  • Move it to a different storage mechanism, perhaps near-line or off-line storage
  • Delete it, but not really (so it can be recovered)

Different systems have different ways of defining it.

I posted this question to the Content Management Professionals group on LinkedIn (it’s private, so no link – unless you’re a member, you can’t view it anyway). Here are a smattering of answers.

  • Archiving keeps the information available to content managers in case of any legal/ compliance issues that may arise. […] when you delete records you lose that “institutional memory” which is a lot more valuable than most people realize. Once the “archived” content satisfies your firm’s record retention policy, you can then delete it.
  • […] we first began “archiving” in the late 1990s-early 2000s on websites where we had little control over how the CMS displayed content. We “archived” something by removing it from regular view [but it would still be available to search], and then, a few years later, we got a REALLY advanced CMS and we could “archive” by removing it from the production site but leaving it in the system for managers in case it was needed for audit purposes, etc.
  • As a former archivist, I can tell you that the profession as a whole winces when they see the word ‘archiving’ […] In my present role, I move files out of general circulation into an ‘archive’ area within my CMS – they are no longer visible to most users, and we do worry about traditional archival things like records retention once we move them there. That said, in previous roles the ‘archive’ has referred to things like moving previous feature stories off the main page (back when that involved hand-coding a flat HTML file to point to all the older files), and elsewhere it has had that more ‘locked away’ meaning.
  • From an operational point of view one could argue: Everything that is currently not in use in day-to-day business, but may be needed later for whatever reason is to be archived.
  • In our system we do try to make a distinction between archives that are still publicly available and archives that are not. The former is “Archive” while the latter adds the modifier “Archive and Expire.” This latter option signifies that the content is “expired” from the site. From the perspective of the visitor, it’s as good as deleted, yet the authoring / managing team still retains the data for record keeping.
  • To me the ‘standard’ definition for archiving content is allowing it to be accessible via search, while no longer remaining prominent (if navigable at all) on a user’s website.
  • […] taking it out of the CMS in order to keep it for audit reasons and the like […]
  • Archiving is purely and simply the act of preservation. Access, purpose and use are details that affect consumption of the archive.
  • I always considered archiving a method to reduce the impact content has on the system(s) usability; for instance with regards to searchability, performance, but not in the least user-friendliness (for lack of a better word)
  • On a number of projects I’ve seen “Soft Delete” used to describe the state in which content has been effectively removed from the system, but can be restored in an emergency. Archiving, in my mind, implies recognized long-term value, rather than a CYA ability to restore.

In seems that “archiving” is a very fluid term, and one that means whatever the organization defines it to mean.

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