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Implementing an Effective Storage Strategy

June 30th, 2005

In the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, Basel II and other data retention regulations, compliance is a major concern for most organizations. Companies are implementing storage strategies that will allow them to manage their data and keep it accessible for compliance at the lowest possible cost. Before these strategies are put into place, however, there are several points that an organization must consider.

Effective Storage Strategies – More Than Just a Single Product

One misconception is the idea that a single storage device or software application alone can ensure compliance with the various data retention regulations. Ensuring compliance involves the integration of devices, software, policies, procedures and people within a highly managed process. For example, Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) is one strategy for managing and storing data, according to its evolving business value and access requirements over time. Data must remain accessible on demand for compliance and audit inquiries.

ILM is based on the idea that all data moves through a natural lifecycle, which begins at creation and ends at final disposal. Throughout the lifecycle, data can be stored on various high and low-cost storage devices, managed by different database archiving and hierarchical software applications and governed by company business policies and procedures. Companies should understand the natural lifecycle of their information to help tier, segment, consolidate and design a cost-effective storage strategy.

Necessary Components of an Effective ILM Strategy

When implementing an ILM or other storage strategy, you must first identify the different types of data that support your business. Next, you should identify the data retention requirements for each type of data. You can then select storage media based on the data access requirements. Finally, you must select the archiving and data management software.

Database archiving, one of the necessary components of an effective ILM strategy, allows you to remove historical data from the production database and store it to the variety of storage media. Archived data remains available for easy access on demand and can be selectively restored to a separate active archive database or back to production whenever needed.

The ideal database archiving solution not only archives the data, but also copies the associated metadata to ensure that the data can be restored later – even if the data model changes over time. By maintaining the referential integrity, data remains in its original business context – a strong requirement for compliance. With an effective ILM strategy and ongoing database archiving, companies can significantly reduce the cost of compliance.

Choosing the Most Appropriate Storage Hardware

The most important aspect when implementing a storage strategy is ensuring that you utilize your existing storage hardware cost-effectively. Companies must align the cost of the storage with the value of the information being stored. One of the biggest dangers is “over buying.” Companies often purchase devices that are more advanced than necessary for their storage requirements. At certain points in the information lifecycle, it makes sense to transition from higher-cost, higher-speed storage to less expensive storage media.

For example, a company has to keep data available for a minimum of seven years. After one year, this data could be considered historical or rarely accessed – at which point it can be moved from the production database to an active archive database. After three years, the same data may be moved near-line to a file server. After five years, the company may choose to store that data offline to tape, disk-based WORM device or long-term permanent storage where the data will remain until final disposal.

Implement Your Storage Strategy Today

An effective storage and database archiving strategy allows you to reduce the cost of compliance across your enterprise. However, these strategies also allow you to improve several other important areas of the company. By archiving and removing historical, inactive data, companies can:

• Streamline databases to improve performance and shorten time for transaction processing and ad hoc queries

• Increase availability by reducing the necessary time for batch processing, maintenance and backup

• Reduce downtime for upgrades

• Meet disaster recovery service level agreements (SLAs)

• Defer or eliminate expensive storage upgrades and reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

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