In the past few days, the news has been teeming with warnings about the “digital dark age” and an impending loss of data, documents, and images. These worries have been sparked by a statement from one of the fathers of the internet, Vint Cerf, who advised people to print out their photos and documents to protect them from becoming inaccessible. Frequent software upgrades and the uncertain downward compatibility contribute to the risk of data being lost, said Cerf. Just think of the floppy disks that were common in the 1980s and early 1990s but that are now not much more than quaint reminders of times past.

Are these fears exaggerated? “Unfortunately not”, says Jörg Kaufmann, CEO of the Swiss print service provider Mikro + Repro AG. “In the past years, we’ve seen times and times again how companies have lost data because they didn’t pay enough attention to their long-term data management”, he says. His company offers printing, plotting and scanning in addition to long-term storage and workflow-management services. “Our customers decide what their needs are and we help them to reach their goals and solve any challenging issues”, he says.

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Many public administrations, hospitals, planning bureaus and other businesses have archival needs that exceed the time spans that are typically considered in purely digital data management. Some official documents such as land status records have to be stored up to 100 years in Switzerland, others including patient files and facility management documents have to be kept for an average of 30 years. Microfilm can be stored for up to 500 years, easily surpassing all the requirements.

“Our array of services allows us to provide our customers with a variety of related services including printing and document management”, says Kaufmann. “Our focus lies on offering the best combination of digitalization, workflow-management, digital and physical storage, printing and microfilming”, he adds. “The customers are thus given the opportunity to choose different services and combinations of services.” For Kaufmann there are clear synergies between all those services. “You could say that microfilming is just an additional printing process”, he explains.

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Kaufmann emphasizes that there is not one ideal solution for all business needs. Rather, he sees himself as an advocate of hybrid solutions. Most documents have to be available in digital and or printed form but there should also be a data management process that offers long-time archival storage for critical documents.

While the pundits are still discussing how to meet the challenges of a digital dark age, microfilm already offers a solution. Because of their expertise in document management and digitalization, printing businesses may be in a unique position to address these issues.

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