In the age of cloud services, it seems that no one cares about where information is stored. The idea that the cloud eliminates space and time by making data accessible from the remotest locations at the click of a mouse is what leads IT professionals to tell us over and over that convenience and safety trump any other concern when it comes to our work product and communications.
H-Net was founded on a different philosophy: that scholars should own and run their servers, that data protection for academic and educational publication and communication should serve the transparent and clear interests of communities of scholars, students, and teachers. We care about where our users' contributions are stored and who is safeguarding them. Millions of users of email are learning this lesson as the federal government has won the power to demand access to Microsoft's user email archive stored on servers in Ireland.
In H-Net’s earliest days, before the web, when email was the killer app and our lists expanded much faster than we could set them up, we learned about the importance of keeping one’s most precious possessions in closest proximity. The computer center at the university where we first operated suddenly told us that it planned to deep-archive our listserv logs on a remote server in order to save space and computing power. Retrieving posts from the logs would have required the intervention of an IT specialist; we had no voice in this decision, which was unacceptable to us. So we left for a new home at Michigan State.
Since then, H-Net has always run and maintained its own servers, sometimes in partnership with another digital humanities organization, but always under the direct care and control of H-Net’s academic leadership. We guard our archive with undivided zeal for the importance of a historical record.
During the past three years, we have been rebuilding our servers one by one, at significant cost. This goes beyond an upgrade: we are installing new operating system software, constructing new system control architecture, devising centralized systems and application log monitors to help us troubleshoot issues, buying new servers, and expanding storage for our constantly-growing H-Net Commons.
This is expensive, and we pay for it out of pocket. Please help us preserve our past and secure our future by donating to the HNet 25 campaign!
Peter Knupfer, Executive Director, H-Net