LIFE3 Costing Model (LIFE3)

 Property Description                                                                                                                           
 ID 3
 Name LIFE3 Costing Model (LIFE3)
 Creator &  Funding Developed University College London (UCL) and British Library (BL) and funded by Jisc and Research Information Network
 Status The LIFE project ended in 2010
 Purpose To improve the ability of organisations to plan and manage the preservation of digital assets by giving a content neutral view of the digital lifecycle from the perspective of the preserving organisation. In LIFE1 and LIFE 2 the purpose was to estimate the life-cycle cost of preservation activites to aid decision making and budgeting.
 Information  assets Websites, e-journals, digitised newspapers, sound, word processing documents, small databases.
 Activities production (creation/digitisation), Pre-Ingest (acquisition), Ingest, Data Management, Archival Storage, Preservation Planning, Administration
 Resources Capital (storage media), labour (5 levels)
 Time Past, Present, Future up to 100 years
 Variables Retention period, number of items, types of items, migration (strategy, frequency, coverage, automation rate), organisation size.
 Type of  tool Analysis, estimate. The tool is implemented in a MS Excel spreadsheet, and in a prototype web version.
 Availability  of tools Documentation and a predicting costing tool is available for download at:
Prototype web tool at:
 References Hole, B., Wheatley, P., Lin, L., McCann, P. and Aitken, B. The Life3 Predictive Costing Tool for Digital Collections, in New Review of Information Networking, Volume 15, Issue 2, 2010: Hole, B., Lin, L., McCann, P., and Wheatley, P., LIFE3: A Predictive Costing Tool for Digital Collections, in Proceedings of iPRES 2010, 7th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects, Austria, 2010, Watson, J., The LIFE project research review – Mapping the landscape, riding a life cycle, 2005, Wheatley, P and Hole, B., LIFE3: Predicting Long Term Digital Preservation Costs, In iPRES2009, September 2009:


 LIFE3 provides a methodology to model the digital lifecycle and a tool to calculate the predicted costs of preserving digital information. The model was developed in the context of libraries and Higher Education/Universities but it can be applied to other cultural heritage institutions of any size.

LIFE3 is based on the OAIS model (and could be even closer to the OAIS model according to the LIFE2 evaluation). It incorporates the digital preservation costing model (GPM v1.2), developed during LIFE 1 and 2.

LIFE3 estimates the complete lifecycle cost as the cost of the lifecycle stages:

  • Creation
  • Acquisition
  • Ingest
  • Metadata Creation
  • Bit-stream Preservation
  • Content Preservation and Access

Each lifecycle stage has several lifecycle elements which in turn have sub-elements.

Regarding ‘Content Preservation’ three strategies of migration are possible: ‘do nothing’ (default), ‘migrate on ingest’, and ‘migrate periodically’. The cost of migration is based on the complexity of the format.

The tool requires the user to enter information in only five fields. This information is used to pre-populate the model with data averaged from relevant case studies where it is available, and the user is immediately presented with a cost estimate on the output page.

The five required types of information is Start year/End Year, Category (asset type), Source (creating costs), Number of items for each year, Organisation Size.

The tool supports the following type of assets: Web sites, E-journals, Printed items (digitised), Sound recordings (digital or analogue), Research documents (MS Office, PDFs, small DB).

The total estimated lifecycle cost is calculated for each stage and element. The cost can be discounted. Migration costs are by default zero due to the default migration strategy of ‘do nothing’. Changing this to migrate periodically and adding the required information on frequency and cost per item shows that the migration cost is the major cost in the model (regardless of a few calculations error in the current version of the tool).

The LIFE3 tool covers most aspects well from an archival point of view, but could benefit from a wider array of pre-ingest activity. Users would probably benefit from a quick user guide. The pre-populated spreadsheet developed by HATII to test the LIFE tool for pre-ingest activity might be worth updating and trialling more widely.