One of the most fundamental issues in replacing paper with electronic media is the concern over long data term preservation. This is an issue that every electronic records initiative has to face, regardless of scope or scale. Whether it is government records, medical records, scientific records or a personal collection digital photographs, the problem is the same; what do we have to do to ensure that we can still access these records in 50 years time, or more? It requires us to consider the format in which the file is stored, the medium on which the file is stored, the application required to open the file, and the device upon which the application will run. A growing body of opinion supports open data formats and open source as the potential solution. Indeed, this approach would largely eliminate the concerns about format, application and device, but would leave the question mark over the medium. If, however, we choose to remain with de facto standards and proprietary systems, managing records over the long term will require considerable investment in time and resources in order to maintain concurrency and accessibility.
Currently the most common electronic solution for organisations implementing an electronic laboratory notebook is to render documents as PDF files for long term record keeping. This is generally considered to be the best option for the preservation of documents for legal purposes, but the long term storage of laboratory data falls outside of this solution.