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How to write an archiving program RFP

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Other factors to consider are whether data, particularly email, is captured continuously or on a scheduled basis, and whether the archive will be encrypted, which raises the question of key management. "When that email is retrieved in some sort of legal search, who has the password to decrypt it?" asks GlassHouse Technologies' Benton. "Probably Fred, who's long since left the company," he adds.

It's also important to consider the administrative impact of products, says Benton. Products that require a great deal of human intervention might be cheaper to start with, but become more expensive over time as maintenance tasks and staff salaries increase. Accessing and reading archived data in the future may also be a key issue (see "50 years from now," below).

50 years from now

The chances are good that buried in the back of the stereo cabinet, you have eight-track tapes, minidisks, Beta tapes, laserdiscs or CD singles that require an adapter you no longer have. And you probably copied all of your records to cassettes, and then later copied the cassettes to CDs.

How do you make sure your archiving solution doesn't go the same way, joining the pile of zip disks and nine-track tapes gathering dust somewhere? And even if the media stays current, how do you make sure you can still read it?

The 100 Year Archive

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Task Force, organized by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), is looking at those problems and is planning to release some results next year, says Michael Peterson, chief strategy advocate for the SNIA Data Management Forum, and president of Strategic Research Corp., a consultancy in Santa Barbara, CA.

"There are two big Holy Grail problems," says Peterson. On the physical side, the media, as well as the software, operating system and drive platforms, all age, requiring a migration every three years to five years to guarantee readable data. On the logical side, the information has to be able to be interpreted--a problem that remains unsolved. Even the new archive ISO standard for PDFs says users shouldn't count on being able to read it in the long term, he says.

SNIA hopes to help the industry develop a self-healing system that eliminates the need for physical migration, as well as develop the eXtensible Access Method (XAM) protocol to help vendors make storage platforms that are independent of user applications, he says.

SNIA's solution requires support from application vendors who so far haven't made it a high priority, says Jim Damoulakis, CTO at GlassHouse Technologies Inc., Framingham, MA.

This was first published in August 2007

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