Your Latest Data Management Challenge: How to Archive “Everything Else”

The definition of data is expanding as companies realize they must archive email messages and social media posts along with traditional business files. What are the risks—and the solutions?

Enterprise Strategy Group research predicts that tape’s lead in the backup sector will increase during the next several years, experiencing 45 percent annual growth through 2015.

Take a good look around at how you’re conducting business. Email. Tweets. Blog posts. Web comments. Social media posts. This isn’t your father’s archive anymore—or even your older sister’s.

To be sure, you’re still hustling a fair share of paper. But those manila folders with brightly colored tabs are no longer a data management mainstay. It’s likely you’ve started a program to move paper to an electronic format that can be stored on tape or your company’s medium of choice. And the data you back up and archive doesn’t come just from your legacy systems, either, though you’re hanging on to those systems so you can still access critical information.

Business Gets Serious About Social Media

Texts and tweets were once the domain of teens reporting their every move. (Blueberry pancakes for lunch? Check. Best lip gloss shade? Yes.) But now they’ve become a popular medium for legitimate records that your company must back up, archive and protect, just as it would data from more traditional sources.

As companies increasingly use major social media hubs and blogs to interact with their customers and business partners, data volume is skyrocketing. In 2011 alone, we created and replicated 1.8 zettabytes (that’s 1.8 trillion gigabytes) of data worldwide. And Gartner Research predicts that by 2014, 20 percent of all businesspeople will use social networking services instead of email as their primary mode of interpersonal communications.

And Regulators Agree…

Still not taking those data sources seriously? Remember that Wall Street firms went into a dither early in the new millennium. That’s when regulators invoked the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Rule 17a-4, requiring firms to produce voluminous email records. That regulation also calls for firms to have:

  • Easy recovery processes for stored data
  • Written and enforceable retention policies
  • Indexes of all stored data

Your archiving strategy must be comprehensive and flexible enough to accommodate different types of data, regardless of its source, and to comply with new rules and regulations. Then, when a compliance issue arises or a discovery or audit request comes through, you’ll be able to answer it quickly and easily.

“Old Reliable” Tackles New Media

You’ll need to build your archives on the foundation of a medium that handles multiple data formats, makes it easy to index information, and holds enormous amounts of data. In a word, that’s tape.

That’s right, tape. If you thought tape was going the way of those hanging manila files and colored ID tabs, think again. Reliable and capable of handling as much data in as many formats as you can throw at it, tape is perfect for archiving. And it isn’t going anywhere.  Enterprise Strategy Group research predicts that tape’s lead in the backup sector will increase during the next several years, experiencing 45 percent annual growth through 2015.

To maximize the value and functionality of your archive, tape-based or otherwise, you should:

  • Map out your information. What data resides in your systems, in which formats, and how important is each type to your business? Once you nail that down, determine where and how accessible the information is.
  • Formulate a data migration and restoration plan. Get your information into the proper formats. That may mean prying it out of legacy systems. Then schedule data migration to readable formats that are retrievable regardless of how they were generated.
  • Protect it, end to end. A famous beverage company just unlocked its vault to access and move its popular cola recipe, accompanied by security guards. While you don’t need a team of comic-book superheroes to man the fort, you must make security a priority. Encrypt where needed, transport tapes securely, and extend that protection to data destruction.
  • Develop retention and disposition schedules. You need to know what to keep and for how long, whether it’s tweets, blogs or emails. Don’t “keep everything forever,” as 25 percent of respondents to an Iron Mountain Data Backup and Recovery survey said they did. Once again, secure disposal is paramount.

To minimize stress and maximize the benefits of archiving multiple data types, consider teaming with a trusted partner with the expertise and technology to offer the best care for your data. Your father would be proud.

Iron Mountain Recommends: Tape ID Services

Make your tape archives even more usable by enlisting the services of a tape ID service provider. Select one that adheres to a three-step process to identify different data types on your tapes and protect the information that resides there. A trusted provider will:

  • Physically scope out your tapes. This includes logging contents into a database that can be reconciled against your logs.
  • Identify priority content. The provider will scan every tape and remove damaged or incomplete ones for further investigation.
  • Sample content. Those samples will identify time span and servers so you can find your information quickly.

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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