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Regulations Squeeze Storage

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Figuring out what to save and where to put it is just half of the compliance equation. The real acid test of a successful compliance program is being able to produce information when requested. This can be a bit dicey, even if the requested information is relatively new, but is in a form that makes it difficult to search for and find specific data. For example, a typical backup of an e-mail application might capture all the data, but it would be difficult to find individual messages related to a particular topic, for instance.

Software tools that archive e-mail and database applications not only take the sweat out of the task of archiving the data, but they also provide the means to quickly find discrete portions of information. The Florida Department of Health used to rely on backup tapes for saving Exchange data, according to CIO David Taylor. But while it protected the data, access was a problem. They installed KVS Enterprise Vault for Exchange and the benefits were almost instantly realized. Before KVS, Taylor says, they would have had to "pull all the backup tapes from our 20 Exchange servers that are distributed statewide and restore all those tapes" to rebuild an Exchange server and extract all the data, tape by tape. That effort could take over 1,000 man hours.

"With the KVS system," says Taylor, "we were able to restore 7,700 e-mails in under a 10-minute search, with another three

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hours or so of work to extract the messages. The e-mail that's archived by the KVS application is stored on an 8TB EMC Centera array rather than tape, which greatly facilitates access. Taylor expects the current Centera configuration will meet their needs for the next three years.

Tektronix uses OuterBay's Application Data Management (ADM) suite to manage the archiving of its multinational database applications. The LiveArchive module in the suite winnows databases of aging data based on user-defined policies and moves it to less expensive storage. Ultimately, OuterBay's application can migrate the records to an "encapsulated archive" where they are saved with the appropriate metadata using XML to preserve them as complete transactions.

Because OuterBay uses XML to archive the records, the information will be accessible even if the originating application is unavailable. Over the years, applications are likely to change or be replaced, and application data structures are likely to undergo modifications, too. In those cases, if data is kept in its native format, satisfying an information request might entail rebuilding old application environments. OuterBay's XML-based archival allows the old data to be accessed and read using any XML-capable application--even a Web browser. Princeton Softech's popular Active Archive suite of database archiving applications also offers an XML output option to help ensure future accessibility.

KVS takes a similar approach with Enterprise Vault by providing an option to store archived e-mail in HTML format. "We do that because keeping an HTML rendition gives you your best chance of future proofing," says Mary Kay Roberto, senior vice president at KVS. Roberto notes that over a period of a few years, systems are likely to be upgraded, which could make recovering e-mail that was created with earlier application versions difficult. Organizations that have to deal with long retention periods should give serious consideration to saving data in non-proprietary formats.

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, uses Documentum to archive data in PDF format from its PeopleSoft applications to ensure that the information will be accessible during its seven-year retention period. Although it's a proprietary format, PDF is so widely used that it approaches de facto status as a standard for document exchange. While Documentum also supports XML and HTML formats, Henry Vail, systems architect at the university, says they opted for PDF to conform with state guidelines for storing nonalterable content. To further ensure the integrity of retained data, they store it on a NetApp SnapLock system, which replaced their overburdened optical storage setup.

Documentum--paired with an EMC Centera array--is also the key to State Street Global Advisor's compliance program. "Those technologies coupled together have met the litmus test for various proofs in terms of validation of records." Linden cites the variety of output options that Documentum offers, and sees it as "a very solid fit with the rest of storage infrastructure."

Once an archiving system is in place--for e-mail, databases or file system content--it should be part of the compliance policy to periodically test it to ensure that data can be retrieved quickly. Testing should also be part of the process whenever host applications are upgraded.

This was first published in July 2004

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