Much has been written recently about archival technologies, but little about how these should be integrated into a long-term data storage strategy.
Many consider archival storage to be an issue confined purely to the IT department, but it reaches far beyond. The retention of corporate records has considerable legal and business implications.
Government agencies, industry regulators and corporations have recently introduced regulations controlling the storage and management of records.
For example, some medical records must now be stored throughout the patient's life, and government institutions have to keep certain records for 50 years.
Under the new regulations, businesses must physically store the records and, in some cases, maintain a full audit trail.
They must also be able to map out a 'corporate memory' of activities that have affected the history of the company. The main requirement is that vital records can be deemed accurate and reliable.
These new rules have led to costly penalties and some high-visibility court cases. Five international brokerage houses were recently fined a total of $8.3m for inadequate email archiving procedures, and a major corporation was fined $1m for destroying court-ordered records.
How can companies ensure that electronic archiving meets the appropriate requirements? The key lies in developing a proactive data archive strategy.
Archiving is often overlooked until a crisis looms, when many IT managers respond by adding more magnetic disks or another tape drive. But this does not meet the requirement for a long-term, trustworthy archive and risks prosecution.
An archive strategy should be planned carefully. The initial stage is to identify the best way to ensure record authenticity when stored and retrieved.
It is no good being able to store information if it cannot be accessed in five to 10 years, or if its integrity cannot be established. Either of these can have serious legal consequences.
The key is selecting the correct storage medium and, as site requirements differ dramatically, no single storage technology will fit all.
Companies must consider the demands of the business before listening to vendors, which may try to force-fit their technology into the archive space. The wrong choice could prove costly.
Steve Tongish is marketing director EMEA at Plasmon Data.
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