Ready, Set, Migrate: Ensuring Constant Access to Your Data Archives

Topics: Data Archive

With the risk of sudden audits or litigation, businesses of all sizes must make sure they have on-demand access to their data archives. But what if some of that data is in an outdated format? A comprehensive media-migration plan keeps your information assets current—and accessible.


FAST FACT: A media-migration solution helps you move your data into the appropriate format and encrypt it without tripping up your daily data backup routine.

DID YOU KNOW? Each new generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tape cartridge has roughly doubled in capacity. Current LTO-5 Ultrium tapes hold up to 1.5 terabytes natively (and up to 3TB with compression)—15 times the capacity of the first 100-gigabyte LTO tapes, introduced in 2000.

DID YOU KNOW? Some compliance rules for data archives mandate stringent records-retention time frames. SEC Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4, for example, specify that securities trading firms must store customer records for at least six years after the closing of any account.


How’d you like to get this phone call from your finance department? “The auditors have asked for some records involving that 1994 deal we did with our former partners. Oh, and they need it like, well, tomorrow?” Then, a rude shock: The requested data is irretrievable because it’s on tapes in a format that your current equipment can’t access.

How can your organization keep your data archives current in case of an unexpected audit or urgent litigation request? Media migration provides an answer. It’s all about moving archival data from an older format to a newer one so it’s readable by current-generation systems. (Which is exactly what you did when you ripped those 1,347 songs from your CDs into digital format.) It’s an urgent matter in the business world, where you need to:

  • Stay compliant. Regulations or industry standards may require you to keep your data in current formats for audits or litigation inquiries. Failure to do so could result in penalties or fines.
  • Access critical business data. You need to protect your intellectual property. However, you may lose access to it when you upgrade your tape library and backup systems.
  • Keep a lid on costs. It’s expensive to maintain legacy hardware systems in your organization for the sole purpose of reading increasingly obsolete media formats.

Individual industries face different challenges when it comes to migrating data. And the task is harder when the data in question is stored in different formats, spans multiple years or originates from various locations. For example:

  • Financial services information tends to be the most standardized. Still, incomplete data can trip you up.
  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical information demands the utmost security, so the migration process doesn’t end up compromising confidential patient information.
  • Insurance records are a special challenge, given the variety of data types—and because of their decades-long lifespan.
  • Retail records often call for consolidation across many locations.

Move It or Lose It

The best solution is a media migration plan that helps you encrypt and move your data into the appropriate format while not tripping up your daily data backup routine or adding too much overhead. Make your plan flexible so it can address every possible media format in your archive and suit your compliance needs. That way you’ll be prepared for anything regulators, lawyers or auditors might throw your way. The essential checklist:

  1. Map the landscape. What data resides in your systems, and how important is each type to your business? Once you’ve got that down, determine its location and level of accessibility.
  2. Research your regulatory obligations. Regulators may have already made most of your media migration decisions for you. At the very least, you’ll get a good idea of how your archived data must be stored going forward.
  3. Target a location. Figure out where you ultimately want the data to live. Develop a plan to migrate to media formats most relevant to your present needs and future plans.
  4. Take stock of your security measures. You need to protect data from end to end—encrypting it where necessary, securing it during transport, limiting the number of hands that touch it, and ensuring chain of custody along the way.

End Game: The Tape-Based Solution

Your media-migration research will likely lead you to this conclusion: Backup tape is the one storage medium that stands the test of time while also delivering true cost efficiency. That’s because tape’s high capacities and low cost add up to great value; it can handle the largest backups efficiently—and in common industry-standard formats. Tape is easy to encrypt and store offsite safely, and the newest media-migration services make tape-based backup data easier to find, access and manage.

Naturally, your media and data migration plan will grow and change as regulations, storage technologies and the needs of your business evolve. With the right approach and the right partner, you’ll gain peace of mind knowing that you’re in compliance and that you can respond to any audit or litigation request. You’ll also help your organization maximize the value of its archival data by making sure it doesn’t get stranded on a deserted digital island.


Iron Mountain Suggests: Media Migration the Easy Way

Iron Mountain can extract content from any type of legacy media and migrate your data to the appropriate format, including write-once/read-many and optical disk. Iron Mountain Media Migration services can assist with every critical phase of the project, including:

  • Analysis of regulations that apply to your company, to design the optimal media-migration strategy
  • Data encryption during the migration process
  • Chain of custody protection throughout the migration process
  • Offsite Tape Vaulting Services for the most secure storage of your newly migrated data
  • Secure Media Destruction as the final step in the lifecycle of your old and obsolete media and data

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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