Permafrost logo


Hosted Digital Preservation with Permafrost
Friendly interventions for long-term preservation.
Tell me more

Academic libraries and archives across Ontario are the custodians of a remarkable variety of unique materials that represent the collective memory of their institutions and communities. Increasingly, these materials exist in digital form: either acquired through purchase or donation, or created by the institution itself as university records or as the output of digitization projects. All of these heterogeneous digital objects require robust tools, systems and infrastructure for long-term preservation to ensure they remain accessible into the future.

Permafrost provisions a suite of tools, training and resources to enable members of the Ontario Council of University Libraries to begin actively processing digital objects for long-term preservation and access. It is operated by Scholars Portal on a cost-recovery basis.

- Want to learn more? Watch our introductory video.
- Want a demo? Request access to our sandbox!
- Interested in subscribing? Please contact us to express interest in using the service!



Scholars Portal installs, hosts and maintains the key technical components so you can focus on your core work.


Permafrost puts the importance of training and support front and center. Training resources and guides help you get started quickly and documentation and technical support keeps you rolling.


Access to the Ontario Library Research Cloud for storage means secure, affordable and reliable storage for preservation. Data is replicated three times between five data centers located at Ontario universities.


Standards-based, open source tools for preservation processing means that your collections will be accessible for the future.


  • Archivematica

    Permafrost’s central function is provisioning hosted instances of the digital preservation processing tool Archivematica, which offers a standards-based workflow for producing preservation-worthy packages of data for long-term storage. Multiple instances are available at reduced cost for institutions with a variety of needs.

  • OLRC

    Participants access the Ontario Library Research Cloud for storage, a secure and affordable private cloud developed and operated by libraries in Ontario. Permafrost makes use of a locally-hosted instance of DuraCloud in combination with the OLRC for reliable preservation storage management.

  • Training

    Training resources include initial onboarding and hands-on consultation sessions. Additional training is available in person and online as needed.

  • Tools & resources

    Permafrost includes additional tools for smoother workflows alongside guides and documentation to make getting up and running easier.

  • Access

    Permafrost supports multiple ways to make digital collections accessible to your user community, including the automated creation of access copies; the ability to create, share, import and stream links to files in the OLRC; and integration options for locally-hosted Access to Memory (AtoM) instances.

  • Reporting

    Information and statistics on stored packages is provided on a regular basis.

Use Cases

Digital Archives

Digital Archives

Keeping digital archival materials for the future

Library Collections

Library Collections

Preserving the library’s diverse digital stacks

Records Management

Records Management

Ensuring authenticity, accessibility and reliability over time

Participating Institutions


How much does Permafrost cost?


One-time cost of $2500 for 37 hours of systems and client support time.

Systems setup includes installation and configuration activities, optional connection to a local AtoM instance, and user creation.

Client support includes initial testing, consultation through a readiness and needs analysis interview process, an initial training session, consultation and recommendations regarding settings and usage during the first twelve weeks of the service, and access to workflow documentation and ingest tools.

Additional integrations such as DSpace, automated workflows or connecting with local storage available at additional cost based on hours worked.

Annual costs

Billed for one instance of Archivematica on an annual basis. Additional instances available for the full price of hardware cost plus 50% of one-time setup and annual technical support costs.


Level Cost
Level 1 (4 cores / 8GB memory / 500 GB processing space) $1,400
Level 2 (8 cores / 16GB memory / 1 TB processing space) $2,800


Charged at the OLRC Rate. Permafrost participants do not have to be OLRC subscribers. Permafrost participants who are OCUL members will receive a single bill for total OLRC storage used.

Level Cost
Per 1TB $276 / year
5TB and up $1,380 / year (includes OLRC membership)

Technical support

Technical support includes updates within six months of new releases, triaging and troubleshooting errors and transfer failures, user management, and general monitoring and system maintenance.

Based on full time equivalent (FTE) student population statistics.

FTE Annual cost
Up to 5,000 $1,000
5,000-15,000 $2,000
15,000-30,000 $4,000
30,000-45,000 $6,000
45,000 and up $8,000


Frequently Asked Questions

Permafrost is intended for libraries and archives who need to preserve their digital assets so that they can be reliably maintained into the future. Materials can include born-digital or digitized assets in many different formats, such as archival records, audiovisual materials, images, or text-based materials.

Scholars Portal provides:

- Setup, installation and maintenance of Archivematica instance(s)
- Initial onboarding, testing and setup support, including a readiness interview/consultation and introductory training session
- Ongoing technical troubleshooting support
- Training resources, guides and tools
- Reporting data on stored packages
-Assistance with performing preservation actions over time

The subscribing institution:

- Determines the scope and structure of content to be preserved
- Actively uses the service to process digital content through the workflow(s)
- Resources and manages staff use of, and access to, the service
- Determines preservation policies and procedures with input from Scholars Portal where requested
- Validates outputs against internal or external standards
- Initiates preservation actions over time

Archivematica is an open-source tool for processing digital objects for preservation and access, including born-digital and digitized content. Archivematica is developed and maintained by Artefactual Systems Inc. Its primary function is to process data using a series of linked tasks called microservices to create Archival Information Packages (AIPs) for preservation and Dissemination Information Packages (DIPs) for access. It performs actions using a centralized Format Policy Registry (FPR) that is fully customizable based on institutional preferences. Archivematica integrates many individual open source tools for digital preservation tasks, such as file format identification, characterization, validation and normalization, into a single workflow.

An AIP consists of the original data objects to be preserved and other materials that made up the original transfer, optionally normalized copies of data objects in preservation-friendly formats, submission documentation, logs, and a METS-based XML file describing the package’s contents, the relationships between these contents, and the actions performed on the contents as part of the Archivematica workflow.

A DIP consists of access copies normalized according to rules set in Archivematica (such as a medium-sized jpg file created from a large tif file), thumbnails, and a copy of the METS file.

Permafrost provides a lightweight tool for making Archivematica-friendly CSV files for descriptive metadata import, and access to tools related to the OLRC, such as Horizon, a browser-based method of transfering data into Archivematica.

Onboarding with the service includes an optional initial needs assessment interview to benchmark the participant’s current capacity, document their needs, and set goals for uses of the service. This interview is followed by an introductory training session. Additional onboarding support lasts for the first twelve weeks of service use, and includes consultation on settings, transfer structure, metadata entry, access workflows, file format policies, and validation of stored AIPs and DIPs.

Initial onboarding training, including an introductory session to the OLRC and Archivematica, is part of the service. New staff members assigned to the service can also take part in onboarding sessions as needed. Access to recorded community webinars on special topics is also available. Additional specialized training and consultation can be arranged in person or online.

Technical support is always provided for troubleshooting transfer errors and failures, user creation and management, file format conversion tools for preservation and access, and systems monitoring and maintenance. We also keep Archives instances updated to the newest version within six months of releases.

The default storage space is the Ontario Library Research Cloud, which provides secure and affordable storage replicated across three nodes in Ontario. Permafrost users do not have to be OLRC subscribers. Other storage integrations are possible at extra cost in consultation with Scholars Portal.

No. Archivematica’s main function is to produce well-formed data packages suitable for long-term preservation. It is not intended for end-users such as students or researchers and does not store the packages itself, though packages are searchable and downloadable through the interface. Hence, it must be connected to independent storage, which is why it pairs beautifully with the Ontario Library Research Cloud, which provides access to secure, affordable and reliable storage.

See ‘What options do I have for giving access to preserved materials?’ below for more information on access options.

Archivematica can automatically create access copies which are stored in the OLRC as a DIP. Public access to these files can be extended through stable URLs that allow them to be shared or imported to digital repositories or exhibits. Audiovisual files can also be streamed directly from the OLRC.

In addition, metadata about a stored AIP can be uploaded to Access to Memory (AtoM) instances as part of the Permafrost service, and direct DIP deposit is possible for locally-hosted AtoM instances.

Integrations with different access systems or repositories as transfer sources for data are also possible. Contact us for more information.

Not at this time, but if you are interested in having AtoM hosted, please contact us.

Absolutely. Permafrost does not keep your data within any proprietary system - AIPs are stored outside of the Archivematica application itself and your use of the Permafrost service is not locked in. However, systems-created data such as indexes cannot be extracted for users, though this can be re-generated from the stored AIPs themselves.

Archivematica instances are installed, hosted, and maintained by Scholars Portal on virtual machines installed on hardware at the University of Toronto Libraries’ data centre and supported by our systems team. Access to Archivematica instances are limited by OCUL member IP ranges and secured via SSL and user logins.

Upload and download to and from the OLRC is also secured by SSL. On the OLRC itself, network nodes in the storage cloud are connected through ORION, the high-speed research network that is supported by Ontario’s universities. Data is transferred between nodes over a private network within the ORION infrastructure.

All data centres involved in the service are restricted to IT staff and have intrusion detection systems (IDS) in place. Data centres implement standard security controls, including the use of firewalls, to limit inbound and outbound traffic to specific ports and from specific domains. In addition, all data uploaded to the OLRC is encrypted at rest.

Archivematica instances are run as virtual machines that are hosted at Scholars Portal. The size of the hardware required relates to the size and quantity of the files to be processed, so subscribers should have a good sense of extent the materials they intend to process. A Level 1 instance can be used for packages up to 50 GB in size or containing up to 3,000 files. A Level 2 instance will be able to process transfers up to 250 GB in size and up to 10,000 files. Level 2 instances are recommended for organizations with large audiovisual files or greater numbers of files. Part of the onboarding process will involve assessing what machine is right for your needs.

Permafrost is for the use of OCUL members only at this time. However, please contact us if your organization is interested in using this service.

Please contact us to express interest in subscribing! Access to a sandbox instance is also available for those interested in testing the service out.

Contact us

Get In Touch!