One of the beauties of using Free and Open Source Software for a project like community digital archiving is that it is possible to come up with solutions to fit almost any budget. This is because Free Software tends to have low resource demands, and is highly configurable. It is possible to implement a community archive in such a way as to make future changes easier, such as implementing the systems as virtual machines; in other words, some early design thought can work around financial constraints.
The initial costs can be broken down into three sections. Archive hardware, technical design and installation, and other hardware. “Other hardware” includes scanners, cameras, workstations and so on that may or may not be required for any particular installation. Ongoing costs include internet access, technical maintenance and operations, hardware replacement and capacity increase.
The Assynt Community Digital Archive was funded as part of a community bid for BIG Lottery funds. While by far the bulk of the funds was spent in refurbishing the old Fishermen’s Mission building and the establishment of a cafe and bunkhouse, less than £8 000.00 was allocated to the Archive. This funding included the main server with 4TB of disk capacity, firewall, interruptible power supply, network switch, test server, ADSL router, wireless access point, 11 2TB removable backup disks, 4 desktop workstations, 1 laptop, 2 scanners, one of which was particularly high quality, 3 cameras, light tents, photography lighting, and tripods.
The software cost is zero. Even the workstations run a free (gratis) distribution of Linux, providing all required file and data manipulation software required.
In Assynt’s case, all technical, design and implementation work was voluntary and without cost. Continuous remote monitoring is also voluntary.
An ideal installation would include a server and firewall, storage server (NAS), workstations, networking, digitisation equipment, backup disks, UPS. Ten to twenty days technical resource time for the build and documentation, additional user training time if necessary. Technical support can be obtained from service providers fluent in Linux and Free software infrastructure development.
An entry-level system can be restricted to a simple server at less than £200 cost, and a simple copy of the work Assynt has done to reduce technical involvement. Local IT professionals may volunteer to assist with such a project.