Public records and the Cloud
January 24, 2017
You make an OPRA request for one or more government records that are stored in large digital files. What’s the best technology for the municipality to utilize to share this digital data? The answer is simple – it depends.
Email. Most Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests are for one or more small type-written documents. These can be provided in paper form or scanned and saved as digital PDF files. These files frequently contain a meeting agenda, recently approved minutes, or a short scanned document. Paper documents are easy to provide, costing you up to 5 cents per page. PDF files are usually small in size and easy to email. Best of all, they can be emailed to you for FREE.
As most email services will permit you to attach up to 25 MB of digital files, email is also the perfect transmission vehicle for distributing files that contain images – such as tax maps, architectural drawings, and photos. Keep in mind that as your request exceeds your municipality’s email attachment size limit, they will have to send you numerous emails.
Web site. The municipal web site is a great tool to share frequently requested documents of any size. Most sites contain recent agendas and minutes of their public bodies. If linked properly, a web site can provide files of almost any size.
CDs. Compact Discs are inexpensive (approx. $0.11 each) and easy to use to store large amounts of data. However, they are also a dying technology. Smart phones and tables don’t read CDs. The newest laptops are ultra-slim and don’t come with CD/DVD players.
In most cases, email and web sites can provided documents to the newest technologies via email. However, now let’s talk hi-res photos, audio files, and videos. They’re too large to email.
Cloud file mangers. The Cloud, aka the Internet, now offers many on-line services that allow you to store your files and share them with others. Microsoft, Google, and many others offer Cloud based file management services. You can upload your files to a secure folder, then access them from multiple devices – and share a file or folder using a web link.
My favorite cloud file management service is Dropbox. For $100/year, you can store and share 1 TB (that’s 1,000 GB) of your files and folders. Dropbox is easy to use, secure, and perfect for the non-sophisticated user. This web site uses Dropbox. Google Drive is another solid choice for Google products users.
Local municipalities still provide their audio recordings via CDs. If they are small, they can be emailed. However, to share recordings of any size, the best method is to upload each file to a service like Dropbox and then post the file link on the municipal web site. That’s it!