Guide to archiving software purchase considerations

Archiving software must be able to support a wide range of file types, as well as quickly search through vast quantities of data.

Although email goes with archiving like love goes with marriage, messaging, such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Bloomberg mail, is only one type of data. There are many other data types, including instant messaging (IM), Microsoft Office files, financial records, database records, .pdfs and other rich media file formats that may need to be archived.

As a result, archiving software must be able to support a wide range of file types -- attaching metadata and assigning policies needed to store the data properly. Such software also automatically identifies and moves data into archival storage and deletes old data that is no longer subject to retention. Archiving software must also be able to quickly search through vast quantities of data and return relevant results, and run properly on your existing storage systems.

Now that you've reviewed the issues involved in purchasing compliance products, this chapter will cover the considerations that are specific to archive software purchases. It also includes product specifications that will help you evaluate and compare archiving software products.

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Variety of data types supported. While email archiving software is designed to manage Exchange, Notes and other types of email data, archiving software must embrace dozens, even hundreds, of file types. These can include .pdfs, documents, images, binary files, XML, HTML and IMs. The latest archiving tools support audio and video media as document attachments, as well as standalone data. When selecting archiving software for the enterprise, storage managers should ensure that it supports the file types most important to their business and particular industry.

Support for archive storage tiering. No one creates archive data. Data placed into archival storage starts off as working data initially housed on top-tier storage. Over time, the data falls into disuse, is moved off Tier 1 storage onto slower, less expensive storage systems and is eventually placed into an archive.

The issue is deciding which data should be moved down the line. Manual archiving should be avoided; archiving software should bring a level of automation to data storage. Archiving software should be able to attach metadata to each file upon creation, then use policies that look at criteria, such as file age and access frequency to move data down through an organization's storage tiers over time.

Interoperability with archive systems and media. Since archival data must be stored on physical media, your archiving software should support the archival storage platform(s) that already exist in your company. If your storage systems are from multiple vendors, the software must accommodate all of them. Support for open frameworks, such as the Extensible Access Method (XAM) interface, is growing, which allows archive tools to use a single-access method to interact with archival storage systems, like EMC Corp.'s Centera, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) Integrated Archive Platform (formerly RISS) and IBM's System Storage DR550.

Search results. Archives can be extensive, and locating data years into the future may be impossible without powerful indexing and search features that can locate data based on metadata or contextual searches of the archive data itself. You should verify that the archiving software's search feature is easy to use, processes vast amounts of data quickly and offers relevant results with a wide range of search criteria.

Reporting capabilities. Just because archived data is old and accessed infrequently doesn't mean it's useless. Consequently, it's important to understand what data is available in the archive, how it's being accessed and who's accessing it. This requires reporting capabilities that can process huge volumes of files and deliver text or graphical reports. Any archiving tool should be able to provide the types of reporting you need for compliance purposes.

Retention, hold and destruction features. Archiving tools should include retention, hold, and deletion features that can be configured based on your company's retention or regulatory policies. Archived files should be retained for a prescribed length of time and should not be erasable, or even alterable, once committed to the archive. Archiving tools should set retention periods with file-level granularity. Any data that becomes subject to litigation should be held, i.e., exempted from the normal retention and deletion policy. Data that has exhausted its retention period should be securely deleted with proof of its deletion in accordance with corporate and regulatory policies.

Support for multiple compliance objectives. These days, companies are often subject to multiple different compliance regulations, and each regulation may impose different retention and deletion standards for the same data types. This makes setting retention policies difficult. Some archiving tools provide support for multiple compliance requirements, such as archiving every file type for the longest retention period that the company is subject to. Check with your legal department to determine any implications related to meeting multiple compliance objectives.

Re-evaluate the relationship between archives and backups. Backup windows are a challenge for many organizations, but not all data needs to be backed up using traditional mechanisms. While archived data must absolutely be protected, archive systems typically rely on RAID and replication. Consequently, routine backups (e.g., nightly backups) may be able to omit the archive data since it will be protected as a separate procedure. Moving data to the archive platform reduces the volume of data that must be protected. This speeds up backup processes for Tier 1 storage and ensures that the backup contains the most recent and business-critical data. In effect, archiving can help the backup process.

The archiving software specifications page in this chapter covers the following products:


  • Abrevity; FileData Software 3.0
  • AXS-One Inc.; AXS-Link for Lotus Notes
  • Bycast Inc.; StorageGRID software
  • CommVault; Data Archiver
  • EMC Corp.; EmailXtender Archive Edition
  • Hewlett-Packard Co.; Integrated Archive Platform
  • IBM; Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
  • Princeton Softech; IBM Optim
  • Quest Software Inc.; Archive Manager
  • Sherpa Software; Archive Attender
  • Solix Technologies Inc.; Solix Enterprise Archiving
  • Sun Microsystems Inc.; StorageTek Storage Archive Manager software
  • Zantaz; Enterprise Archive Solution (EAS)

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