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How to write an archiving program RFP

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All archiving programs aren't alike. Here's how to craft an RFP that lets you compare programs on an equal footing and find the application that best fits your environment.


Maybe your boss said he wanted one. Or the compliance officer told you the company needed an archiving system to protect itself. With so many archiving systems on the market, putting together a request for proposal (RFP) for an archiving program for structured (database), semistructured (email) or unstructured (files and documents) data is a key step. It's equally important that your team is well-prepared to evaluate vendor RFPs so you end up with a product that fits your company's needs at a price that doesn't break your budget.

Archiving products are different from backup programs, but some archiving products work closely with backup apps (see "Archives aren't backups," below). In some cases, data is archived to comply with government or industry regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In addition, last December the U.S. Court made changes to its Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to add more details about how civil cases should consider electronic documents such as email. The bottom line is that storage administrators need to have a much better handle on what data is available and where it's stored.

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Archives aren't backups

You may think a backup and an archive are one and the same, but they're not. Here's how they differ:

  • Archives provide tools to find data from a particular point in time--backups don't.
  • Users restore data from backups, but retrieve data, such as for compliance purposes, from archives.
  • Archived data isn't expected to change or be used on a day-to-day basis.
  • Archive systems are more content-aware than backups.
  • Archive systems sometimes have a mechanism for data expiration.

An RFP is a formal document explaining the type of product and features you need. Vendors use the RFP as a guide to submit suggestions about how their products might meet your needs. But you don't necessarily have to go through a formal RFP process to find the right product. For example, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which seeks to improve education in Ohio, opted for a Logicalis Inc. email archiving product because of the company's relationship with EMC Corp., which supplies storage hardware to KnowledgeWorks.

This was first published in August 2007

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