White Paper Summary

Ten Best Practices for Archiving

Although data privacy and identity theft have a higher profile in the minds of consumers, data retention issues can have a far greater financial impact on businesses. Every company, whether public or private, large or small, must have a policy and enforcement system to deal with the messages and files generated by the organization every day. E-mail has become especially important, since it has become the dominant form of business communication. Data retention policies generally exist to allow companies to comply with regulations or address legal entanglements. But although most companies understand the need for such a policy, few have reliably implemented it: Osterman Research shows that although 43% of surveyed companies had a policy for e-mail retention, only 12% automated compliance with an archiving solution. The rest presumably rely on backup systems and end-user habits to protect e-mail, neither of which is a reliable option. Legal experts tell us that having a policy that is not enforced causes greater harm during litigation than having no policy all.

Business drivers for archiving
So why archive data at all? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to delete every e-mail message and file after a specified period of time, making the assumption that computer data is ephemeral? There would be significantly less storage expense with this universal deletion method, but it has never been successful. Practically speaking, there is no guarantee that an e-mail message has been deleted; another copy of every message exists on the receiving end, and messages can easily be copied, forwarded, or saved in a variety of locations. As long as deletion cannot be guaranteed, a policy of universal deletion could open the company to prosecution for ineffective enforcement. The drivers for electronic data archiving have traditionally been similar to those for hard-copy business records - litigation and compliance with internal rules or external regulations, and storage management savings. Response to litigation-related e-discovery and document production requests are one of the most common needs met by an effective data archiving solution. An enterprise archiving solution can reduce or eliminate the need to search backup tapes and other sources for messages, documents, and data. Archiving solutions can also reconcile redundant data sources, reducing the amount of duplicated information that must be examined by counsel, further saving costs. Many archiving solutions also have advanced indexing and searching features, which allow documents to be marked for review, retention, or production.

Compliance with internal policies or external regulations often requires examination of historical messages, documents and data, some of which may no longer be contained on active storage systems. Archiving solutions can capture, retain, and index that information, and offer additional policy tools that allow document classification according to business rules to help ensure compliance with retention policies.

Operational business needs may require archiving old messages, documents and data. Having a consistent and easy-to-use archive allows data to be removed from production systems, decreasing system load and improving performance. An archive solution can also reduce storage costs, since only files that are actively being used need to be maintained on expensive production systems. Archiving can also assist in centralization of data, moving information from the edge to the core of the data center where policies can be enforced for the protection, indexing, retrieval and management of data.

Finally, archiving technology can be used in the process of migrating data from one application to another. Archiving content before a software migration can be a powerful way to reduce the amount of data to be moved and integrated. An archiving solution can also help move data from one format to another – “translating” it by storing one proprietary application’s data in an archive format and then injecting it into the new system. Using archiving prior to a migration also helps clean up old data, keeping it from ever being added to the new system, while keeping it accessible if needed. Some archiving software vendors have begun to feature migration as an additional use for their offerings. Buying a solution from a migration-savvy company promises to ease the implementation of this technique.

What is a best practice?
Generally, a best practice meets three key criteria: it is sensible and logical, low-risk, and in widespread use. Although policies vary based on business circumstances, some universal best practices can be distilled from the experience of many organizations. 

In the world of financial management, the “prudent man rule” is often applied. The rule states that financial investments should be managed “how men of prudence, discretion and intelligence manage their own affairs.” This sentiment can be extended into the world of information technology as a basic rule of prudence – is the practice a good idea? Does it seem wise? Is a solution being forced somewhere it does not belong? The essence of a best practice asks: Is it a sensible thing to do? 



2007-08-01
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