Turning the Page: A Data Migration Guide for Financial Services Firms

Topics : Data Backup and Archiving

When your firm adopts new storage options, it may lose access to vital transactions, emails and other data in legacy archives. But you can avoid this by developing a flexible data migration strategy.


FAST FACT: The Big Data market will grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $16.9 billion in 2015, according to an IDC forecast cited in eWeek.

DID YOU KNOW? About 95% of organizations perform a data migration at least annually, according to a 2012 survey by data management software vendor Varonis.


In the “go-go Eighties,” Wall Street’s notorious capitalist Gordon Gekko declared, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

In the age of Big Data, few records managers would disagree: The new wave of Big Data analysis offers an opportunity for your firm to unlock significant revenues in that data stash. But to realize this potential, you must ensure that your organization’s older “valuables” remain accessible even as it adopts newer storage systems and formats. Yes, it’s high time to get proactive with records management.

Wall Street, We’ve Got a Problem

If you haven’t updated your records management strategy since the enigmatic Gekko hit the big screen, it’s likely you’re missing some serious opportunities, and experiencing some serious issues, too. Here are a few possible trouble areas in your information archives:

  • Archived and legacy records may not be compliant with regulatory requirements. Think SEC Rule 17a-4, which outlines rules for data retention, indexing and accessibility. The requirement that companies treat emails as records sent Wall Street into a records management tailspin.
  • Your records information management policies may not be up to date or properly executed. When was the last time you revisited your records management policy? It should cover emails, blogs, tweets and other social media-generated information.
  • Can you even access older information? Migration can become an issue as your company keeps pace with the evolution of magnetic disk media, for example—your archives won’t keep up. Make sure you can read all of your media files.
  • Is the support of multiple legacy systems draining your resources? No matter how familiar your old systems may seem to you and your colleagues, they’re inefficient. These units also introduce inefficiencies into your business operations and sap IT resources from more dynamic mission critical initiatives.

Bite the Bullet—Now

Getting your records and information management strategy in order may seem overwhelming. But if you don’t start migrating data now, you’ll most likely find it even more daunting when the avalanche of Big Data crashes into your business. A staggering 2.7 zettabytes of data is estimated to be coursing through the digital universe right now, according to research firm IDC. And it’s only growing.

Here are the key steps to consider as you modernize your data management practices:

  • Update your records and information management policy. Perform a top-to-bottom review of policies for both electronic and paper records that reflect your company’s workflow. Include social media management in the mix.
  • Start a document scanning program. Pare back on the paper that stymies your records search, leaves you vulnerable to breaches and can weigh down discovery demands. A View Into Unified Records Management: The Iron Mountain 2012 Compliance Benchmark Report reported that 83 percent of respondents couldn’t locate hardcopy records when needed. (Don’t forget to shred what you don’t need.)
  • Index everything. More than 6 out of 10 organizations can’t classify or index user-created electronic records, such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, emails and instant messages, according to the benchmark report. In your system, assign each record a tag that includes a set of descriptors. These can include author, record type, date generated, and even confidentiality status to create a searchable classification system.
  • Know your federal, state and industry regulations. Federal regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank and SEC Rule 17a-4, as well as some state laws and industry rulings, specify the types of information you must retain and for how long. Let those regulations—as well as your business needs—guide the development of retention and destruction schedules and security measures for a compliant records management system.
  • Migrate legacy data. Map where data lies in your systems and develop a plan for transforming legacy data into formats that you currently support and can easily access. Besides giving employees easier access to information, you can also free up IT resources and budget dollars currently used to support legacy systems.
  • Adopt a tiered storage strategy. Determining which information belongs on which tier helps prioritize your records. A useful breakdown is the three-tier model: Tier 1 contains data critical to your firm’s daily operations and/or highly confidential material; tier 2 holds data accessed periodically; and tier 3 preserves information you rarely access. Consider moving that third class of data to offsite storage, which is more cost-effective than retaining it onsite.

Getting your head around a comprehensive policy that encompasses media migration doesn’t have to give you a comprehensive headache. An experienced partner can guide you through every step of the process. Be sure to choose one with plenty of knowledge in records management and with the technology, facilities and know-how to tend to your most valuable commodity—information.


Iron Mountain Recommends: Destroy What You Don’t Need

Your retention and destruction schedules should also inform your migration strategy. When records—whether electronic or paper—come to the end of their lives, you must destroy them properly. And who you select to do it can be the difference between secure document destructionsecure media destruction and having reams of your sensitive information rain down as confetti in your city’s next parade.

Your trusted partner should provide:

  • Secure transport of sensitive information
  • Trained and rigorously screened personnel
  • Accountability with a documented workflow
  • An environmentally friendly waste-to-energy incineration process that also ensures complete destruction

Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center Small Business resources, or contact Iron Mountain’s Small Business team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services Small Business specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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