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Stark Warning: Regulatory Compliance Threatened by Archive Failures and Complacency

    Online News published in DMReview.com
January 13, 2006

The time-honored glass house process of archiving data continues to be misunderstood and inefficiently adopted by U.S. enterprises, research results revealed. Figures from a new study commissioned by BridgeHead Software indicate that a large portion of U.S. organizations may be jeopardizing their business operations by failing to archive properly while remaining complacent about regulatory compliancy and confusing the functions of backup and archiving.

Almost a quarter of respondents - 23 percent - concede that they do not archive data. As a result, these respondents agreed that the hypothetical task of retrieving a vital file lost three months ago likely becomes a hit-or-miss affair: 20 percent of all respondents do not know how long such a file would take to retrieve, 10 percent say more than a day, 2 percent say more than a week, and a formidable 6 percent admit that they simply would not be able to find it.

In view of mounting regulatory legislation governing data storage and retention, this appears at first glance to suggest many companies are knowingly failing in their responsibilities. However, closer examination reveals that only 15 percent of respondents say that regulatory compliance and/or corporate governance is a factor driving their need for archiving.

In fact, regulatory compliance is a burden to only 58 percent of respondents, with 42 percent citing 'no need' [for compliance processes].

This suggests strongly that many companies feel unaffected by recent, high-profile legislation. Of those that are affected, Sarbanes-Oxley is the most influential - affecting almost half, with HIPPA important to almost a quarter.

Of all respondents, 29 percent indicate data growth is a driver for archiving but, curiously, 40 percent indicate disaster recovery / business continuity as the fundamental driver. Clearly, the ability of archiving processes to copy data to remote or removable media that can be taken offsite highlights the complexity of business needs around data storage.

For archiving technology, this driver suggests that many organizations need a base-line of functionality to make multiple copies of data on different media in different locations if they are to address the combination of business continuance, data protection and compliancy demands they face.

Bearing in mind that 77 percent of respondents claim to archive data to some extent, adoption of secondary data storage and archiving would appear to be widespread. Seventy four percent of respondents say their organization has a file archive solution and 66 percent say they have an email archive solution. However, solutions for hierarchical storage management, storage resource management and information lifecycle management are all only possessed by 10 percent.

Manual archiving dominates the archive process, but with a strange twist that suggests a misunderstanding of what is meant by, and required of, archiving. Twenty nine percent of respondents archive manually, 32 percent archive automatically using archive software and only four percent archive manually using archive software. However, a remarkable 35 percent claim to archive manually using backup software - an entirely inappropriate tool for tracking file-level data over long time periods and a 'red flag' that calls into question the likely efficacy of the resulting 'archive.' This conclusion is also supported by the prominence of disaster recovery / business continuity as a driver for archiving.

A mixture of archive media prevails, as might be expected. Tape is used by 61 percent of companies, and optical media by 22 percent. But disk, with its potential vulnerability as a long term data storage medium, is also used for archiving by more than half of companies, at 52 percent. As an additional consequence of failing to archive at all, many companies clearly continue to pay top dollar for expensive forms of storage, instead of migrating old, but important-to-retain, data to less expensive storage media such as tape and optical.

A total of 54 percent of respondents estimate they could reduce the volume of data on their primary data store by 20-50 percent, if they knew which data will never be accessed again. With respondents' average primary store size of around 3.5TB, such knowledge would clearly be extremely valuable, enabling major reductions in storage expenditure.

But the difficulty in identifying this data and archiving it successfully is suggested by the fact that more than half of respondents have less than 1TB of archive data, despite the 3.5TB average primary data store size.

Attitudes to archiving appear to be changing only slowly: only 5 percent of respondents expect to archive less data over the next year than in the past year, but 12 percent expect no change and 41 percent don't know, with the remainder expecting an average increase in archived data volumes of 33 percent.

Almost half of all respondents indicate that email data makes up between 10 and 30 percent of data held on primary storage; while a similar proportion agree that other unstructured data is also responsible for between 10 and 30 percent of primary storage data volumes.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Compliance and Storage.

This piece has been brought to you by the DM Review Editorial staff.

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