Module B2: What is the technological infrastructure of the project?

Module Status: Drafting in Progress | Ready for Testing | Tested
Current Module Downloads: Module B2 Activity Worksheet and Excel Worksheet

Documenting Your Technological Infrastructure

In addition to documenting the members of your project team and their responsibilities, you will also benefit greatly from documenting both the internal and external technological infrastructures on which your project relies. There are three main areas of infrastructure on which we would like you to focus:

  • Data;
  • Software, including server software, operating systems, and presentation layer applications;
  • Hardware, including the machines that you own, “use for free,” or rent.

In the next module, Module B3, we’ll walk you through the process of mapping your project staff (as identified in Module B1) to the technologies you’ll be identifying here.

Data Infrastructure

The data that underlies your project may be found in a variety of places and may take on a variety of forms, depending on the shape and scope of your work. If you have created data-driven visualizations, for example, the data that makes those displays tick is clearly a critical part of your project. It may reside in a number of physical locations, from the server used to display the visualizations to your audience, to a variety of back-up locations scattered across your technological infrastructure. Now is the moment to take stock of where your data is located. Referring back to your work listing your “Reliable Sites of Project Documentation” in Module A5 may be helpful to you now.

To take another example, your project may also be a website with a great deal of narrative content, such as the website you are reading now, the Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap itself. The data for this project is textual in format, but no less essential to the ongoing health of the Roadmap project than quantitative or geo-spatial data might be to another. We have the text found on each of the pages as well as the downloadable content to consider. Indeed, the data of these types of digital projects can often be thought about as closely connected to the “content” discussed in Module A4, and is part of the essential information that makes your project yours.

Software Infrastructure

The software that you are using to support the features of your project can run the gamut from web platforms to finely-tuned system environments to stand-alone analytical tools to mobile applications. We are asking you to consider here all of the different types of software that you need to use in order to make your project tick. For web-facing projects, there is often more to the software infrastructure than simply (if such things can be simple!) the platform or service used to host its public-facing form. If you’re doing text analysis work, for example, you may have used tools such as Voyant or MALLET. If you are visualizing data, perhaps you’ve used d3.js. Maybe you’ve used Mapbox to plot geographic data points. It benefits your project in the short and long term to ensure that you have access to not only to all of the documentation for each of the pieces of software you have used, but also, perhaps more critically, documentation of how you have implemented it.

Hardware Infrastructure

The data and software for user-facing, web-based projects have to be stored somewhere, as does all of your project documentation. Where, physically, is your project stored? Where are your records stored? Do you use personal or university-provided server space? Perhaps your project is supported by a paid hosting service like Reclaim Hosting, or maybe it’s hosted by a freemium platform such as Omeka.net or WordPress.com. Are you using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud storage or for virtual servers? It is critical to note that your hardware infrastructure does not always necessarily show up as a fixed cost in your budget. Are you reliant on Google Drive or any other online system that you do not directly pay for? GitHub? However it’s stored, you’ll want to document where your projects are physically located, as well as how and for how long these storage solutions are paid for, even if they are currently “free.”

In this module, you’ll want to identify the following pieces of information about each technology used on your project:

  • What is the function of this technology on your project?
  • How is the technology funded, and for how long will that funding last?
  • How long will this technology be required by your project?

If you run the Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap as suggested, please do note that you will be updating this information every three years, so keep that timeframe in mind as you do the mapping. Part of the reason we chose this iterative timeframe is that technologies change dramatically over the course of three to five years, and so you will best keep on top of developments if you check back in consistently. Unless your desired longevity is fewer than three years, the three-year cycle is a good one to rely on.

(Module last updated April 2018)

Previous Module: Module B1: Who is on the project team and what are their roles? Next Module: Module B3: Socio-Technical Responsibility Checklist
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