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Analyzing Costs - Nature of Cost Assessment

Q. Which activity or activities do I need to include in my cost analysis?

If you wish to assess costs for all of the activities involved in your curation program or project, you still need to determine what specific elements you will include in your cost analysis. You could use the OAIS reference model as a means for identifying cost categories, a process-based approach in which you assess all of the steps in your overall workflow and assign costs to each of these steps, rolling  up the costs into identifiable categories (e.g., ingest, metadata creation, metadata maintenance and updates, migration, etc.), or a combination of these approaches.

The important questions that will determine how you end up creating your cost model are (1) how granular do you need your analysis to be?; (2) what data is available to you?; and (3) how do your stakeholders need to see the information?


Take Action

  • Determine how granular you need your analysis to be.
  • Determine whether the data available to you will support that level of granularity.
  • Determine whether you will do a traditional, functional- or process-based cost analysis or an activity-based cost analysis.
  • If using a process-based cost analysis, identify all the work processes that are to be included and break down the costs based upon what resources are needed to perform these processes.
  • If using an activity-based cost analysis, determine what your final goods and/or services are, identify all of the steps required to create those goods/services, and delineate the resources that are necessary to create these goods and/or services.
  • Determine how you will deal with indirect costs and administrative (i.e., general, or overhead) costs.
  • If you are working with collaborators who will be sharing their own materials, infrastructure, or services, identify whether you need to include these costs.
  • Determine which cost data you can gather directly, which you need to create, and which is not available.
  • Decide if you will estimate the data that is not available, or if you will leave it out and explain to stakeholders its absence.
  • Determine how you will present the information to your stakeholders.


Use Cases

  • California Digital Library. Cost Modeling. [website]

    A webpage maintained by the University of California Curation Center, which tracks their efforts at developing an analytical framework for modeling the full economic costs of preservation. They refer to this as the "Total Cost of Preservation," or TCP. This site includes background articles, the cost model, and presentations they have given on the model.
  • Palaiologk, Anna S. et al. "An Activity-Based Costing Model for Long-Term Preservation and Dissemination of Digital Research Data: The Case of DANS. "International Journal on Digital Libraries, 2012. 12(4): 195-214.

    This article discusses the development of an activity-based costing model for the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) Institute. It discusses the process the authors followed to develop their model, the way in which they determined their cost categories, and the ways in which strategy influences costs.
  • Royal Danish Library and the Danish National Archives. Cost Model for Digital Preservation. [website]

    "This website is dedicated to publishing the results of a project whose aim is to estimate the costs of digital preservation. The project is called the Cost Model for Digital Preservation (CMDP) and is developed by the Royal Danish Library and the Danish National Archives."
  • Vision, Todd. Cost Model: Effects of Curation Level and Volume. London, England. Dryad Winter Board Meeting Presentation, 2009.

    This is a presentation given to the Dryad Data Repository Administrative Board in 2009 which presents the predictive cost model that was developed specifically for the repository's business planning. The Board has since begun cost recovery through subscription services. This presentation provides an example of how one might present the results of one's cost analysis to decision makers in your organization.



  • Ashley, Kevin. "Digital Archives Costs: Facts and Fallacies." Proceedings of the DLM-Forum on Electronic Records, 121-126. 1999.

    This article is considered a "classic" in the literature of cost modeling for digital preservation. Within the course of describing the development of a cost model for University of London Computer Center (ULCC), Ashley reveals that the level of overall costs for a repository are much more closely correlated with the range of preservation services provided than with the quantity or quality of preservation objects.
  • Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access (BRTF). Sustaining the Digital Investment: Issues and Challenges of Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation. San Diego: San Diego Supercomputer Center, 2008.

    The BRTF interim report does not offer a concrete cost model, but does discuss the economics of digital preservation and offers examples from various actual repositories. This document includes a discussion of costs and the relationship between costs and value within long-term digital preservation activities.
  • Bote, Juanjo, Belen Fernandez-Feijoo, and Silvia Ruiz. "The Cost of Digital Preservation: A Methodological Analysis." Procedia Technology 5, 2012, 103-111.

    The authors' objective is to apply a cost accounting methodology to design a model applicable to digital preservation. They apply a cost accounting design methodology to a high-tech activity and offer a proposed cost model to calculate the cost of digital preservation.
  • Eakin, Lorraine (now Richards) et al. A Selective Literature Review on Digital Preservation Sustainability.

    This literature formed one of the sources for the Interim Report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access (BRTF), by providing information about a wide variety of cost models that had been developed up to the time of the BRTF's drafting of their interim report. Provides many examples of early cost models, the cost categories used, and the actual costs each model reported.
  • Fontaine, Kathy et al. "Observations on Cost Modeling and Performance Measurement of Long-Term Archives." In PV2007 International Conference Proceedings. Oberpfaffenhofen: German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and German Remote Sensing Data Centre(DFD), 1-7.

    "This paper describes a prototype suite of Excel-based tools that could be used for estimating life-cycle costs for newly planned or modified long-term archival facilities. Cost estimation is by analogy, using statistical curve-fitting techniques across a database of comparable data activities."
  • Hawtin, Rob et al. Cost Analysis of Cloud Computing for Research: Final Report to EPSRC and JISC. Surrey, England: Curtis+Cartwright, 2012.

    This report provides a comprehensive report on the potential use of cloud computing by research institutions. It defines the cloud and discusses the benefits, risks, and costs of cloud computing use by these institutions. It also offers in Chapter 3 a discussion on the total cost of ownership (TCO) of data centers within such institutions.
  • Sanett, Shelby. "Toward Developing a Framework of Cost Elements for Preserving Authentic Electronic Records into Perpetuity. College & Research Libraries, 2002. 63(5): 388-404.

    This article is another "classic," one of the early articles on the costs of cloud computing. Sanett offers a life cycle oriented list of cost elements in digital preservation and discusses the Function Modeling method undertaken by the InterPARES project. She also discusses the role of financial management in digital preservation.
  • Strodl, Stephan and Andreas Rauber. "A Cost Model for Small Scale Automated Digital Preservation Archives." In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects. November 1-4, 2011, 97-106.

    The authors present a cost model designed especially for small scale automated digital preservation software system.

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