Grace Information Management Blog

In today’s digitalised world, many people find it hard to believe that microfilming continues to play a vital role in records preservation.

Digital documents have the benefit of enabling you to share and send information around the world in seconds but they also have their downfalls. This is why Grace Information Management continues to see microfilming as a vital service.

In the last 20 years digital formats have come and gone – think 8”, 5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks, tape cassettes, zip disks, CDs and DVDs. The lack of standards between hardware and software coupled with the continual changes and upgrades render digital systems unreliable for long-term records management. To convert these documents to a new format every time there is an upgrade is both time consuming and expensive. For libraries, newspapers and other industries, microfilming is a trusted and proven records format that has stood the test of time. Unlike computer software, microfilms and their readers are standard to allow continual access anywhere in the world.

Microfilming works by shrinking a standard-sized document to one so small it is unreadable to the naked eye and requires magnification, which means, unlike digital formats, it is not dependent on machinery.

A major selling point for microfilm is its ability to limit the storage space for documents. Typically, 98 images can fit on one page of microfilm and with most documents reduced to 0.25 percent of their original size. This amounts to a recoup of 95 percent of the space previously occupied by those documents prior to microfilming. While digitalising paper documents can also free up physical space, microfilming often guarantees a better resolution. A digital image of similar quality would take up a large amount of computer space. It is also relatively simple and inexpensive to produce multiple copies of microforms enabling access at a number of locations.

Yet another benefit is that a microfilm image is a direct image of an original. Unlike digital documents, it doesn’t allow the information to be changed or otherwise tampered with and is therefore guaranteed to be accurate. This is why microfilms are admissible in court.

Perhaps the most significant reason why microfilming continues to be invaluable is its ability to preserve information. A well-maintained microfilm document can last for up to 500 years whereas digitalized documents are yet to prove their longevity. This is not to say that one day microfilms won’t end up on the scrapheap of technology but for now its benefits have certainly not been forgotten.