Best Practices: The ultimate archiving challenge


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Email archiving apps store their data in proprietary formats. Some firms have found after months or years of operation that their chosen email archiving app doesn't satisfy their requirements or that a newer, better solution is available. Unfortunately, the cost and impact of migration and conversion often leads to the unavoidable alternative of supporting multiple email archiving apps many years hence.

Standards to the rescue?
Addressing current technology limitations is one factor in solving the archiving puzzle. To their credit, some vendors acknowledge that these constraints are inhibiting wide-scale adoption and are taking steps to address the issue. For example, the Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) Data Management Forum is driving standardization efforts for Fixed Content Aware Storage, as well as hosting a task force focusing on the 100 Year Archive.

A critical part of the SNIA effort involves promoting a common storage specification known as the eXtensible Access Method (XAM) that could provide the missing data portability for CAS and archival apps. XAM is a self-describing format that encapsulates meta data with its associated data (à la XML), and enables data to be accessed by an app or utility other than the one that created it. Great concept, right? Unfortunately establishing a standard is anything but easy.

To a large extent, the key to long-term data management lies at its point of creation: the application.

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In most cases, only the app has sufficient knowledge regarding data dependencies and the business logic to effectively manage the data. As a result, for many categories of data, the problem can't be completely addressed without support from within the application. Application vendors traditionally haven't made long-term retention their highest priority.

This was first published in July 2007

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