This research work was done to find out the Role of Data Preservation in Enhancing the Efficiency of Secretarial Function in the Banking Sector in Aguata Local Government Area. In doing this, the researcher evaluated the various methods of data preservation, their advantages and disadvantages, and the functions of a secretary in an organization. It was equally revealed that users of the manual method face varying problems such as time wastage and monotony, while the computer users face constraints such as training and retraining and complexity. Although majority of the respondents use manual method, they preferred the computerized method. In view of this, it was concluded that the computerized method is the most effective method of data preservation. To this end, it was recommended that the computerized method should be introduced in the banks. It is believed that it the banks and other organizations involved in data preservation, which is an essential aspect of any organization, following this and other recommendations herein, it will enhance the efficiency of their secretarial functions as well as other functions in the organization.
According to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of current English, data is information prepared for and operates on a computer programme.
Also, Ani, 2011 in her mimeograph on data processing, defines data as a collection of unprocessed items which on their own do not convey any meaning. Suffice it to say that data can be preserved in the computer as well as in other system.
The preservation of data is as old as man himself. In the earlier times, men were capable of storing information in their brains and passing them on from mouth to mouth. But the more authentic ones were data inscribed on stone tablets, on paper scrolls and even on walls, so that generations later can still make reference to them if properly preserved. However, there were limitations on how far one could rely on these methods of preserving data. As time progressed, the advent of various mechanisms for preserving data were developed.
In 2012, Charles Babbage, English, Mathematician, invented a device called the punch-card which was designed to calculated and print mathematical tables. This innovation can equally be used as a memory or storage unit that can store data in the form of holes punched in cards.
However, the effectiveness of this machine was limited by slowness and mechanical operating difficulties. These restrictions were overcome by the next development in data preservation history-the invention of electronic computer.
In 2010, the first types of computer called UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) was delivered to a business enterprise. They were designed to handle vas quantities of data typical of business operations. This new method of increased speed, output and preservation, over the years, files and cabinets have been used to preserve data too.
Books and Journals were read and information got from these books concerning data preservation were grouped into the following headings:
1. Meaning of data preservation
2. Problems of data preservation
3. Method of data preservation
4. Data preservation and secretarial function
Meaning of Data Preservation
In the light of the above exposition, data preservation which has been an aspect of data processing could be defined thus:
The use of suitable media for a storing and reviewing data as and when required. Off line storage usually, takes the form of magnetic tape where as on-line (immediately accessible) storage employ magnetic disc because of its direct access capability. By Anderson, (2004)
Data preservation usually relates to a computer’s backing storage, but it is also argued that other suitable media could be used for preserving data. The medium chosen for data preservation depend, upon the circumstances, but whatever is used, it must be capable of storing large volumes of data as so filing cabinets in a conventional clerical system.
Data preservation is importance because the future growth of a business limit depends amongst other things on the preserved data of the past. These are used for future references to access the present situation and plan ahead for the future.
Problems of Data Preservation
The most familiar problems in data preservation are media failure or deterioration and rapid changes in computer hardware and software that make older systems obsolete on a regular basic. Efforts to preserve digital information have always been challenged by the relative instability and short life of most data storage media. Media failure and undetected deterioration of storage media remains a problems for data preservation, but the issue of media longevity has moved into the background.
Although there is no “Permanent” data storage medium that meets standards of longevity and durability established for “Permanent paper” or microfilm, improvements in magnetic and optical media reduce the frequency at which digital materials must be copied to new media in order to prevent deterioration or loss.
Media deterioration and loss remain a problem when digital materials are not integrated into systematic management and maintenance programs and where there is adequate system of security and back-up.
A far more challenging problem is hardware and software obsolescence. Information technology continues to evolve and each new generation of hardware and software tends to displace the hardware and software of the previous generation. At its most basic level, this means that even if digital objects are copied perfectly and transferred to new storage media, it may be impossible to retrieve, or interpret these objects because of incompatibilities between the systems used to create them originally and the current generation of systems used to retrieve these objects.
Method of Data Preservation
Data preservation method varies from one organization to another depending on the circumstances and information flow of the organization. A comparison of data preservation methods point out the similarities and differences between the requirements of each system. No matter how data is handled, one should remember that a system is a logical sequence of related activities that comprises the entire unit or operation. It is pertinent to note that there are generally three basic categories of data preservation method available for information end-users.
- Manual method
- Electrometrical method
- Computer method
The manual method of data preservation is the oldest method. For, centuries, man lived on earth without keeping records. But as social organization such as tribes began to form, it became necessary for man to adjust. The complexities of tribal life required man to remember more details. Method of counting, based on the biological fact that man has fingers were thus developed. Man equally used stone tablets, paper scrolls and walls in preserving data for future references.
In manual data preservation, human effort is combined with simple office tools to perform one operation at a time. In modern times, manual data preservation method in use can be discussed using the following sub-heading:
According to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, A file is a collection of cards, documents, papers and newspapers for reference purposes; anything used for keeping such a collection together can still be regarded as a file or folder. It is the practice in offices to receive letters, reports circular and other documented information daily from both within and outside the business organization.
Furthermore, filing is the classifying and preserving of records according to a definite arrangement so that they can be found when needed, files constitute the memory of a business.
Azuka, (2010), defines filing as a systematic arrangement and keeping of business correspondence and records so that they may be found and delivered when needed for future reference. Filling is therefore, a form of preserving data.
Onibonoje, (2004), adds that filing is the orderly collection, arrangement and safe-keeping of information and prompt retrieval of such information as and when required for any decision.
Files may be kept in one location (centralized) or kept in various departments or branches (decentralized). There are basically five systems of filing, they are:
a. Vertical Filing: In the system, the papers or documents placed into files, which are arranged vertically (upright or standing position). The files are effectively displayed with title strips or labels on the top edges. The file can be stored in cabinet drawers, racks and shelves which serve to protect the files from accidental damage.
b. Horizontal Filing: This filing system indicates the horizontal or flat position of files. Under these system papers, folders and files are placed one on top of another on shelves or in shallow drawers. This systems is particularly suitable for drawing maps and other documents which cannot be folded or perforated for fixing into files and which are best stored flat.
c. Suspension Filing: This is a filing system where folders may be suspended vertically from metal runners fitted inside cabinet drawers. The actual correspondence is filed, not directly into the suspended files, but in inner folders, this is to prevent them from slipping or sliding down, giving a disorderly appearance to the drawer and making it difficult for a person to file in a file that has slipped to the bottom of the drawer.
Duplicating stencils required for future use are commonly filed in a cabinet specially made for the purpose and using the vertical suspension system.
d. Lateral Filing: Lateral filing is a system of storing files side by side, rather like books and on a shelf. The files are generally suspended from rails placed laterally in cupboards, racks or an open shelving. They are fitted with title holders which can normally be adjusted for the required angle of vision. Where accommodation is limited lateral installation are ideal as space does not have to be allowed for the opening of drawers and they can be built up as high as the ceiling will allow.
e. Plan Filling: Plans and drawings may be stored horizontally in flat drawers or vertically in storage cabinets where the drawings are arranged in an upright position. Vertical cabinets contain compartments with wave-like dividers enabling large drawings to stand erect without buckling. Each compartment has its own indexing strip so that the drawings can be easily identified.
Having discussed about the various manual methods of preserving data, it is imperative also to discuss how preserved data or documents can be traced when they are removed from their storage facility. One of the most frequent sources of delay and in convenience in filing is to find that a file has been remove from its place in the cabinet and a lengthy, irritating search all over the office is necessary to trace it. This can be avoided by the use of the following:
i) Absent Card: The absent card is inserted in the place of the file to give details of the file remove. An absent card is used to record the number or name of the file taken, the date taken, the initials and signature of the person to whom it is issued and the date returned. It remains in the cabinet until the file is replaced, providing a check on the where abouts of the file.
ii) Suspended Absent Wallet: Another systems used tracing files is the suspended absent wallet. In this system, the wallet is suspended with the cabinet (pocket) from which a file is removed. A completed card showing the number or name of the file, the name of the person to whom it has been issued, the department concerned and the date, is placed in the wallet and retained until the file is returned. This absent wallet, whilst providing a check on the where abouts of the file has the further advantages of:-
a. Providing a recep tacks for further filing of papers or documents whilst the file is out, and
b. Determining at a glance which files are out, and if required, enabling their recovery to be made without delay.
iii) File Movement Register: A register is kept to record the movement of files, the register contains the title of the file, the name of the office to when it is sent and date of the day it was sent.
Advantages of Manual Method of Data Preservation
a. Maintains original copy of documents for future reference especially for legal documents.
b. Less expensive
c. Easy to understand and operate. It does not require special training.
d. They keep documents neat and orderly.
Disadvantages of Manual Method of Data Preservation
i. It is time consuming
ii. It takes spaces especially in the use of cabinet, shelf and cupboards.
iii. It is a monotonous method, and it is less challenging for the secretary.
iv. In most cases, it is difficult to access space requirements for expansion.
a) Punch Card
One of such electromechanical device is the punch card machine. Punch card method have been in wide-spread business use only since the 1930’s, but the history of the punch cards dates back to about the end of the American Revolution when a French weaver named Joseph Marie Jacquard used them to control his looms. In his automatic looms, weaving was directed by a card in which punched holes supplied instructions which control thread selection and design application.
In 2007, Dr. Herman Hollerith, a statistician with the United State Census Bureau developed a mechanical system of recording, computing and tabulating census data and other data such as age, sex, occupation and location. The machine was successfully used in this regard and it would have been practically impossible for the census bureau to have manually completed the task within the period assigned to it.
In 2012, Charles Babbage, an English mathematician designed the first machine that used punch card in solving mathematical problems. His “different engine” designed to calculate and print mathematical tables. After his “different engine”, Babbage built another engine, a more challenging project the “Analytical engine”. The device was such more sophiscated in that it has a memory or storage unit that would store data in the form of holes punched in cards. It equally had a control unit which would direct operations.
The punch card contains about eighty columns of information, and each columns has twelve positions or locations which may be punched. The surface of the card is divided into “Field” services as heading under which information may be analysed and each field consists of one or more columns.
The punch card systems are being slowly over-taken by computerized system. It was one of the chief methods used as an ‘input’ device into a computer. a punched card system is one in which information, stored or recorded by punched holes in manila cards is manipulated and analyzed by mechanical means to provide control information for management.
Advantages of the Punch Card System:
i. Punch card can be produced locally and are therefore cheap and easily available.
ii. Punch card provide a means of producing and preserving complete records of transactions and could be easily interpreted.
iii. It is one of the chief methods used as ‘input’ device in computer.
Disadvantages of the Punch Card System:
i. It has a limited turn around speed in processing data.
ii. It was not error proof since the holes were punched manually.
iii. The card cannot be used again once data is punched onto it.
iv. The capacity of each card to contain characters is low.
b) Magnetic Cards and Strips:
The magnetic card or strip may be considered to be a length of flexible plastic material upon which short places of magnetic tape have been mounted in a side-by-side arrangement. A number of cards are placed in a cartridge like disc packs, these cartridges are removable in a minute or less.
Magnetic card and strips equipment has high storage capacity and the cost per character stored is low.
As defined by Harrison, (2009), Microfilming is a process developed for bulk coping of loose-leaf records. Correspondence, financial records, engineering drawings, extract from books or magazines or other documents are copied on the films for filing purpose.
Anikene, (2006), opines that microfilming machine is a photographic processing machine which enables the size of stored records to be reduced considerably.
Adirika and Ebue, (2005), equally defines microfilming as a process of transferring information from letters, files, textbooks, drawings, into films for preservation purpose.
This system of storing documents is most appropriate for preserving records which must be kept for so many years. It is most valuable for preserving historical and museum records, for official government records and court records.