Opinion: Twelve questions to answer before buying e-mail archiving

Answering these questions goes a long way toward ensuring that the right technology is selected

Over the past few years, awareness of the impact of long-term data retention on storage management has grown dramatically, leading to widespread interest in data archiving. Among all data types, e-mail archiving has achieved the most traction. Spurred on by the focus on compliance and legal discovery, many organizations, particularly in the financial services arena, rushed out and purchased archiving hardware and software. Now that some "road miles" have accumulated on these technologies, it makes sense to consider some lessons learned. 

One of the biggest lessons is that technology cannot trump policy, and one of the major challenges is getting agreement within the organization on what the right archiving policies should be. Before jumping into the technology selection process, it is important to come to some level of agreement. With e-mail archiving there are actually a surprising number of factors to consider in terms of policy development. For those who have not yet made the leap into e-mail archiving, here are some of the items that should be considered:

  • Frequency: When, how often must data be archived?

  • Retention: How long will the data be kept?

  • Retrievability: How often and in what ways will archived data be accessed or searched?

  • Taxonomy: What is the methodology by which archived data will be identified and indexed?

  • Ingestion: Does pre-existing or historical data need to be entered into the archive?

  • Security: What are the physical (site) and logical (encryption) security requirements?

  • Authentication: What levels of access control are required?

  • Immutability: Is there a requirement to prove that data is unchanged?

  • Render options: Is it acceptable for the data to be transformed for rendering purposes?

  • Future proofing: Does the data need to be retained in a common format (e.g., PDF, XML) to ensure future readability?

  • Refresh criteria: What considerations need to be given to expiration of media life?

  • Purge: When is archived data no longer required, and how will it be destroyed?

Formulating answers to these questions will go a long way toward ensuring that the right technology is selected.

Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies Inc., a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at jimd@glasshouse.com

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