Today, almost every organization archives at least some of its data. Some do so to comply with industry regulations, while others use archiving to facilitate their internal business requirements. Regardless of an organisation’s reason for archiving data, the process can be trickier than it might appear at first. Unlike a typical backup, archives must be able to stand the test of time. Given the rapid
pace at which IT evolves, longevity can be a tall order. The following list of considerations will help you improve the long-term usefulness of
your archives.

  • Storage medium
    Since they will be stored for a long of time, you must choose a type of media that will last as long as your retention policy dictates. Tapes tend to become demagnetized over time, which can lead to data loss. As a result, tapes are rated according to their durability. A good quality tape should last for 10 years or more. In contrast, optical storage media will last indefinitely.
  •  Revisiting old archives
    On a similar note, your archive policies, as well as the storage mechanisms you use for archiving data will undoubtedly change over time. So be sure you review your archives at least once a year to see if anything needs to be migrated to a different storage medium.
  • Data usability
    One major problem is archived data that is in an obsolete format. For example, a person wants to restore certain documents that may have been archived in the early 1990s, these documents may have been created by an application called PFS Write which was a file format that was widely supported in the late 80s and early 90s, but today, there are not any applications around that can read the files. To avoid situations like this, archive not only data, but also copies of the installation media for the
    applications that created the data and copies of any necessary license keys.
  • Selective archiving
    Consider what should be archived. Sure, you want to archive your data — but not all data is equally important. For example, you will probably want to archive your financial records indefinitely, but is it really necessary to preserve your telephone call logs for all eternity? Determine what types of data are present in your organization and the useful lifespan for each data type. Then, design your archival policy around it.
  • Retrieval method
    As you design your archival system, remember that over time, the archives will probably grow to a monolithic size. So you need an efficient way of retrieving data from the archives should the need arise. It might be simple to dump your archive data to tape, for example, but how well are your tapes indexed? If you are not sure, ask yourself how much work would be involved in locating and retrieving a file that was archived three years ago. Many commercial archival products provide a Web interface that simplifies the task of searching the archives for data.
  • Space considerations
    Because your archives can become huge, you must plan for the long-term retention of all of that data. Make sure there is room in your IT budget to continue purchasing tapes and enough free space in the vault to hold all of those tapes. If you archive data to a network server, the capacity planning process will likely be much more important because of the limited amount of data that can be stored
    online.
  • Restoring to an isolated environment
    As you develop your archive policy, you should stipulate how the data should be restored. My advice is to restore the data to an isolated environment whenever possible. I once heard of a Fortune 500 company that accidentally introduced a virus onto their file servers because they restored some infected archived files.
  • Online vs. offline storage
    One last consideration is whether to store your archives online (on a dedicated archive server) or offline (on removable media). There
    are advantages and disadvantages to each method. Storing data online keeps the data readily accessible. But the sheer volume of the archived data may make online retention impractical. Furthermore, data that is stored online may be vulnerable to theft, tampering and corruption. Offline storage enables you to store an unlimited amount of data. However, the data is not readily accessible, and it may prove to be difficult to restore the data should the need arise years from now.

I.T Assistant

L’AINE Services Limited

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