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Is WORM media necessary for archiving?

Here, Bob Spurzem discusses how to begin the three-step process of building an enterprise data archive.

2003 was an exciting year for compliance driven data archival. If you read any of the hundreds of related articles this year you undoubtedly learned quite a bit about SEC Rule 17a4, Sarbanes-Oxley and other important regulations concerning data archival. The meaning of these regulations is clear- electronic records require the same retention and safe keeping as traditional paper records. What is less obvious is how to begin the process of building an enterprise data archive. This article will break down the process into three steps. First it will examine the underlying storage technology. Second, it will take a look at the software to drive the archive, and thirdly it will offer a final tip to pull it all together. At each step key questions will be addressed to help guide your decision making.

Should I use WORM media?

You are probably wondering, "Is WORM media necessary for my archive and if so what type of WORM media should I use?" Let's put this issue into perspective. SEC Rule 17a4 is the only regulation that requires WORM media. It requires media that is "non-erasable" and "non-rewriteable." Other regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, FDA CFR Part 11 and HIPAA do not specify WORM media type so therefore, you have some choices.

There are many sound reasons to use WORM media. The most obvious reasons are the built-in safeguards to keep records safe for years. Accidental erasures are less likely to occur when you use WORM media. Optical media and WORM tape media are both removable, which makes them a nice choice for storing data long term. Optical media allows direct access to data and can help speed data retrieval. WORM tape media allows sequential access to data and is a good choice for data that does not require frequent retrieval.

New WORM disk technology offers performance and capacity, and with the new ATA disk technology, provides low cost storage as well. Several new WORM disk products were introduced in 2003 from Hitachi Data Systems, EMC and Network Appliance that are ideal for regulated data storage. It makes sense to use WORM disk for the first couple of years when records are in the most demand and then move the data to removable media (tape or optical) for long term storage.

How much data do you expect to store in your archive? Do some quick calculations to determine if you are talking about 100GB per year or ten TBs per year. The result can mean the difference between using a dedicated optical jukebox or a Storage Area Network (SAN).

How long must the data be stored? Consult with your corporate compliance officer to determine the retention requirements for the data in the archive. Keeping data accessible for two years, for example, is reasonable for spinning disk, but is impractical if ten years (or longer) is the requirement.

Finally, as you consider your storage alternatives, consider how you will protect the data against equipment failures and disasters. It is cost effective to leverage your existing data protection processes and technologies to protect your archive. If you plan carefully, you can use the same backup and recovery applications to perform daily backups; you can use the same replication applications to protect the data offsite; and you can use your existing tape libraries to make tape backups.

Look for part two of this article on

For more information:

Tip: Sarbanes-Oxley reading list

Tip: The benefits of WORM disk

Tip: Managing corporate records for Sarbanes-Oxley

Tip: crash course: Compliance

About the author: Bob Spurzem is with Hitachi Data Systems product marketing and industry solutions division.

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