I’m headed to Stanford University’s campus tomorrow morning to begin a two-day chat with a variety of authors, digital preservationists, and technologists to strategize and formulate tangible gameplans for preserving and archiving digital projects. Everyone in attendance will be bringing a different perspective to the table, and I’m very much looking forward to the conversations that will flourish. I thought I might take a quick moment to blog a summary of my perspective, as I’ll be sharing it briefly tomorrow afternoon.
Reclaim Hosting was founded in 2013 as a way to provide affordable web hosting space for individuals and educational institutions alike. We’re set apart from the Wix’s and Squarespace’s because we encourage digital literacy and growth both in and outside of the classroom. Our support tickets go deeper than resetting passwords; we teach, advise, and converse with our customers about the tools available to them. In addition to fixing the problem at hand, we use these support tickets as a learning experience for the inquirer and provide the steps we took towards the solution so they might be able to do fix it themselves it in the future. For the last five years, supporting customers has been the very top priority for Reclaim Hosting. We keep out reply times lightning fast, our satisfactory ratings high, and regularly put answering support tickets before all other projects.
It’s important I share Reclaim Hosting’s priorities from the very beginning in order to show how they have adapted, changed, and grown, even in the last three years since I joined Reclaim Hosting in 2015. While we still place the utmost importance on our support, our growing team and comfortability with the infrastructure have allowed us to shift focus towards the future, but also towards preserving the past. Will we use cPanel forever? What will be the next ‘WordPress’? These are just a few of the many questions that have been floating through my mind, at least, especially over the last year or so. What’s more, Jim and Tim recently gave a talk at OER18 about Cloudron as a potential path for our future beyond the LAMP environment.
Technologies and softwares are always updating and advancing, and Reclaim Hosting obviously wants to provide the most relevant, up-to-date tools for users. But how do we do that while also hosting and preserving work that has been created on tools that are maybe no longer supporting themselves? Here’s another scenario: Reclaim now has institutions that have been with us for a couple of years and are racking up quite a bit of content from their community. How do they preserve the work of students and faculty members that are no longer institution? These are the golden questions, I suppose, and likely ones that will be thrown around quite a bit in some form or another over the next few days.
While the answers are hardly black and white, we’ve already begun to address some of this in the form of migration strategies and site archive utilities. At the root, however, we believe that in order to make digital projects sustainable, we must make them portable and transferable so they are not restricted to the platform where they were created.
As an example, Tim began creating a Site Archive Utility plugin in cPanel that would allow the user to input their site URL, click import, and archive their site as static HTML on the server (essentially doing the work of something like SiteSucker.) The idea here is that you could do things like schedule archives, store them on a third-party service like Amazon S3, save them locally in a specific folder of your choosing.
But in the spirit of strategizing with others at the workshop, I think it would be incredibly fascinating to have the ^above feature on our Migration Assistance page for Domain of One’s Own schools, for instance. A student would be able to import their site as static HTML, but instead of saving locally or on S3, the files went to an actual archiving service. And, hypothetically, that archiving service would have a small corner of the internet dedicated specifically to specific institutions. Those schools would then be able to use that as a resource for work that they’re interested in keeping long-term in addition to the tools provided at Reclaim Hosting. But that’s just an idea. :)