It was the best of times to archive...it was the worst of times to archive.
There are a number of tangible and intangible benefits to archiving structured and unstructured records. Depending on how an enterprise archive is implemented, the benefits can shift from record appraisal to retrieval.
Depending on the business process and governance model defined for your organization’s service, you may find it was the best of times to archive only to find out that it was the worst of times when you needed to get the information back out in retrieval. Many organizations implement archives where there is minimal governance and overhead on the ingestion process so it is less costly to get the information into the archive, but their benefits are often eroded when getting the information out. This cost is magnified where structured data is concerned and when you need DBAs, technical analysts and eDiscovery specialists to support the retrieval process.
Alternatively, organizations may find it was the worst of times to archive and best of times for records retrieval. In this scenario the appraisal process of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) standard required much more upfront assessment and analysis to properly classify and describe the records and information such that the records retrieval process is streamlined and cost-effective. In this scenario organizations find balance when the information is requested and their archival packages are delivered with minimal disruption to ongoing business activities.
As outlined in 5 Enterprise Archiving Advantages You Need To Know, the tangible advantages can translate to real cost savings. Once quantified they may be used to drive discussions within an organization to define the risk threshold and establish whether the costs should be upstream or downstream in the OAIS model:
- Ensuring regulatory compliance for data retention, data immutability and audit trails.
- Improving performance of current business applications – increasing operational productivity.
- Making archived information widely available and easy to retrieve by authorized users.
- Removing the burden and complexity of maintaining obsolete systems solely for their data.
- Reducing costs and time for back-up, upgrades and database tuning.
Regulary Compliance Imperative
Regulatory compliance is an imperative and often translates to cost avoidance and an intangible benefit. Improving performance of line of business applications can often be directly tied to a cost savings value, as can the measurement of time savings in search and retrieval of information by knowledge workers and the savings generated when software and hardware are decommissioned. In this last set, an enterprise will recoup licensing costs, platform and hardware costs, potential resource savings in IT and business support and any planned or essential upgrade costs that would have otherwise been required. An archive service can also avoid further costs from a future eDiscovery perspective or some other legal, business or regulatory requirement that might otherwise be unmet.
Where Organizations Struggle
Where organizations seem to struggle most is where in the OAIS model is the best place to spend the money on classification and record definition - where is the waterline for defining the records, retention, legal holds, essential metadata.
Organizations must determine where is the waterline for defining the records, retention, legal holds, essential metadata and, in the case of structured information, how much effort is required for capturing the data model, table relationships, determining the need for limiting the information to horizontal or vertically partitioned data sets and more.
That waterline is a risk threshold, a cost benefit analysis, and where the “pay me now or pay me later” conundrum exists. Most practitioners agree that there are substantial costs savings derived through system retirement and decommissioning. But many forget to consider that it is an enterprise archive of records and information that still has value and someday those records may be requested in support of a legal, financial, business or other audit, investigation or need. At this point they will no doubt begin asking some of the questions that could have been addressed during the appraisal process:.
True, the enterprise saves the costs of addressing some of the complex records management and archiving assessment challenges and it gains increased costs savings through system retirement and decommissioning. But then, some day those records may be requested in support of a legal, financial, business or other audit, investigation or need.
- Do the records archived meet what is required in order to be used in a legal proceeding?
- Can you find the record – did you capture the right metadata?
- Can you generate the record if you archived an entire relational database?
- Do you still have the data model to assure that records you reconstitute are authentic, attributable, complete and accurate?
Searching, culling and retrieving archived information has a cost just like the processing of the information during appraisal. The question is – where is the waterline and is your organization above or below? It was the best of times to archive, but the worst of times to retrieve.
Migration Strategies. Governance Models.
For some enterprises, detailed assessment during appraisal ends up resulting in a decreased demand for archiving - the business and their IT staff actually change their migration strategies, change their storage strategies - such that they can avoid the upfront costs of archiving. In other cases, companies go farther in the other direction – they not only build out upfront classification and record definition during appraisal, but even take steps to incorporate record identification and classification during the implementation of new systems so the costs of appraisal are borne in the system development process rather than decommissioning and archive processes. Enterprises must be aware of their particular waterline and implement a governance model for the archive service that works best for the organization's risk threshold and cost models. Is it the best or worst of times to archive?