Your Enterprise, With Improved Data Retention Policies

Topics: Data Archive

Having a comprehensive data plan is important to meeting federal and state compliance regulations.

It's a modern-day conundrum: Federal and state regulations compel the healthcare, pharmaceuticals and financial service industries, among other segments, to create more electronic documentation—and to keep this documentation longer.

Then of course, you're faced with a second challenge: How can your enterprise guarantee quick and easy access to specific data and files, without adding to the bottom line?

How's Your Data Retention "Plan A" Doing?

The key is to craft and implement an effective data retention plan.

Most companies recognize this and are increasing their efforts, but success requires going beyond having policies that reflect regulatory guidelines. To succeed, company data retention plans must actually boost adherence to the policies throughout the enterprise.

According to Symantec's most recent Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey:

  • 60 percent of companies have developed a formal retention plan.
  • Only 34 percent of the same respondents say their plans are fully operational
  • While respondents received an average of 17 requests for electronically stored information, they failed to deliver on those data retrieval requests 31 percent of the time.

Why has it become so difficult to retrieve what you need, when you need it? Often, an enterprise makes at least one of these mistakes:

1)Abusing the "Safe is better than sorry" approach.

Companies often retain more data in long-term archiving than they are even required to by law. As a result:

  • 54 percent of the Symantec survey respondents say that their firms have incurred higher costs.
  • 47 percent spend more time than necessary collecting, reviewing, and analyzing data.

2)Holding information too long.

Companies may identify the right data for long-term storage, but then drop the ball on how the laws affecting their type of business affect that data's lifecycle. So they cling to information they could have (safely and securely) destroyed months or years ago.

3)Keeping data in the wrong place.

Does your enterprise maintain a well-managed tape backup system—a necessity for recovery after an outage or a disaster? That's great, but don't confuse that with a long-term data archive. Some organizations do just that, and when it comes time to find what they need, it's not there, or it takes a long time to retrieve.

Five Best Practices for Data Retention

Fortunately, you can solidify your data retention—and future-proof your business—by applying these best practices:

#1: Know what you have.

Get all department heads at all locations to take stock of electronic and physical records potentially subject to regulatory, industry or legal compliance—including data on mobile devices and on external storage drives. Make sure you are complying with retention guidelines for social media, instant messages, and videos—so nothing slips through the cracks.

#2: Organize data and set retention guidelines.

Practically as soon as you create it, organize your data according to retention guidelines and tag it with an ultimate expiration date. Be sure to automate the process of transitioning essential, active information into archived data. You can also automate the process of designating information for secure destruction.

#3: Review adherence to data retention policies.

It's not enough to have completely compliant retention and destruction guidelines. You must also monitor your enterprise's adherence to policies—and make alterations if problems surface. Standardize both policies and implementation across the enterprise.

#4: Create a hybrid storage strategy.

As data ages, move it to slower, less expensive storage media. Cloud archives are an option for data that may be needed promptly, but tape storage—offsite, in climate-controlled facilities—is safe, less expensive, and long lasting.

#5: Consolidate data.

Avoid getting bogged down by incompatible formats. Employ data migration to arrange the data in a unified format on new storage systems.

Once you've established unified policies—and implementation—across the enterprise, you're well positioned to handle data efficiently and dispose of data no longer needed.

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


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