Media Migration in the Era of Compliance

Topics: Data Archive

Looking to stay compliant while also moving to more efficient, reliable storage media? Learn how a well-defined workflow, informed in part by your industry’s standards, can help your company master both goals.


As you plan your migration strategy, make sure you’re working from a clear foundation—one to which you can return in the event that your data gets corrupted.


As if data migration weren’t already enough of a taxing and intricate matter for your IT team, the regulatory and compliance issues in your particular industry add even more complexity to the process.

Getting a sensible data migration workflow in place can help your organization meet requirements that govern how and where you store specific types of data and how easily you can access them. Consider this workflow framework as you decide how to migrate your data.

  • Index your media. Before migrating anything, keep a careful accounting of the material you’re moving. If you’re loading data onto external media, such as tapes, track all movements.
  • Audit your systems. It takes analysis and raw numbers to prove time and cost savings. Track the results of your migrated system, then compare them to your legacy storage options. Are you saving time and money?
  • Restore regularly. A truly compliant backup and recovery system provides assurance that it can help with a disaster recovery. Test your system regularly—accessing both large and small amounts of information—to see how quickly it makes a full restoration.

What’s Your Business?

The other part of this puzzle hinges on the law: scores of federal and state regulations that protect your customer information. Depending on the nature of your business and its information, some or all of these regulations may affect your storage plan. (For compliance reference resources, see “Help Wanted: Keeping Up with the Law.”) Take into account your industry’s migration characteristics.


Help Wanted: Keeping Up with the Law

Sorting out just how regulations—and their many amendments—might shape your archiving strategy isn’t easy. But help from these independent references is just a few clicks away:


Financial services: Extensive compliance demands mean banks and other financial institutions have huge amounts of data to transfer. On the plus side, financial source and destination records tend to be more similar than those in other industries, so you need little translation (and data interchange standards should further ease migration). That said, focus on:

  • Data requiring more analysis to fit into your new system
  • Filling out incomplete records

Healthcare and pharmaceutical: Patient records call for the highest order of security. You’ll need to:

  • Perform a quality assurance (QA) check before making moves to ensure that records are in the correct format
  • Create duplicates of all records for the migration process so you don’t interrupt current operations
  • Confirm that newly migrated data has made the journey intact; confidential patient data must maintain its integrity

Insurance: These migrations are among the most difficult, thanks in part to the volume and extensive variety of data types in the category. Though some clients may have policies going back decades, it’s quite possible (and optimal) to prune away old, no longer relevant records. Bring the new system online in phases. You’ll need to spend a lot of time getting agents and their clients acclimated to achieve the best results.

Retail: Migrating data for retailers often means combining records from multiple locations into a central storage area. Doing so affords a higher level of privacy for customer data that may not exist at the store level. Consider building a central repository that places current data on faster and perhaps more costly systems while placing legacy data on lower-cost media.

Are You Taping This? Smart Data Moves

No matter what your industry, one excellent best practice to follow as you plan a migration strategy is to make sure you’re working from a clear foundation—one to which you can return in the event that your data gets corrupted.

For many companies, this means relying on tape backups, long considered “the backup of the backup,” and the one to which you can turn when all else fails. These businesses may use a tape backup system in concert with other backup media—typically onsite or online media that afford fast access for daily needs.

Part of this best practice would involve creating an automatic backup and recovery system with an offsite third-party provider. Benefits of this setup include:

  • Migrating less essential data from your network onto an offline backup system. This frees resources for more immediate tasks.
  • Moving to a more efficient, higher-density storage medium that can reduce storage costs.
  • Adding end-of-life automatic deletion for archived material that’s no longer relevant. Doing so frees up space and makes timely data easier to find.

These considerations may seem daunting at first. But think of it this way: Keeping pace with compliance demands will set your company up for designing, implementing and maintaining an optimal data migration plan—one that will continue to grow and change as regulations and the needs of your business evolve.


A Holy Trifecta of Regulations

Whether it’s HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley or your local municipality’s rules, most regulations focus on:

  • Information retention. How long do you need to store business-critical information? When are you required to delete no-longer-active materials? How can you maintain on-demand access to data on legacy media?
  • Integrity issues. Has your data been corrupted over time or rendered unreadable because of outdated software? For these reasons, it’s often wise to migrate to newer media.
  • Security. Though security systems are often built into a storage system, encryption should become more rigorous over time. Be sure to address legacy-system security.

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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