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Regardless of their original intent, the scope of these point solutions tends to expand over time. Email systems also include contact lists, calendar entries, to-do lists and notes, and these may not have been considered at first. What about attachments? Most corporate record-retention policies call for documents to be retained, but they might be duplicated on the file server or document management system. And once legal gets used to simpler search and retrieval of old email messages, they'll want to archive and search across a variety of data types beyond email, including document management systems, file servers and structured data systems.

Events like those often lead to a key turning point in the process of implementing consolidated archiving: Should the current system be expanded to include other record types or should another vertical solution be deployed for each new application?

Standardization and simplicity are often the primary reasons for expanding an existing archival system. Jason Beckham, director of IT at Payformance Corp. in Jacksonville, FL, sees the benefit in sticking to a single platform. "Our current Hitachi archiving platform is already in place and it's a known quantity," he says. "We plan to expand on the existing HCAP [Hitachi Content Archive Platform] when we add email archiving, since it's so simple to implement and will require much less management and training."

Three keys to archiving

There

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are many ideas about what a consolidated or unified archive should look like, and preconceptions can clash when you're considering creating such a solution. There are three key elements to any archiving system:

  • Archiving software, from companies like Autonomy Zantaz, EMC Corp., Mimosa Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp., manages the location, movement and disposition of data.
  • Storage hardware, from companies such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., Hitachi and NetApp, receives the data to be preserved and specialized platforms handle encryption, protection, retrieval and destruction of data.
  • Management software, from vendors like Abrevity Inc., Attenex Corp., Autonomy Corp., Clearwell Systems Inc., i365 (a Seagate Company) and Kazeon Systems Inc., provides services like search, classification and e-discovery capability.

But most applications don't fall into these neat classifications. As they develop their products and the market matures, vendors continually add features like e-discovery support, search and data movement, blurring the lines among storage, archiving and management. The variety of elements and overlapping features add complexity to the once-simple world of archiving.

Navigating the archiving market starts with an evaluation of your company's objectives for its archive. If the objective is to serve business demands like in-house e-discovery or retention to comply with regulations, it makes sense to let data management features drive product selection. But if IT needs a system to control data growth or enable lifecycle management, higher-level search and e-discovery features are less relevant. Regardless of the initial object, it's likely the archive will eventually serve both business and IT demands.

Not all archives will use all three archiving elements presented here. Some organizations send data to an archiving platform directly from a custom application, while others will use conventional storage systems rather than investing in a specialized device as their archive target.

Brian Greenberg, an independent IT strategy consultant based in Chicago, suggests a strategy is needed before expanding the archive environment. "Larger organizations, especially in regulated industries, are looking for federated search and management across data types, but smaller, less-regulated companies might be able to keep their data in silos," he says. "The key is the level of overarching management needed."

This was first published in January 2009

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