Why Archiving Data & Reducing Storage Volumes Don't Have to Be Conflicting Goals

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The problem with document management for any system manager is, at a minimum, threefold: Ensuring that the correct data is retained; that it remains accessible without user productivity being affected; and that storage-management costs are kept under control.

With the size of Exchange information stores becoming larger, the risks incurred in business operation by lengthy backup/restore times are high, yet the alternative option of mirroring or backup to another high-speed drive results in significantly increased complexity and cost.

Today's popular solution is to implement an e-mail archiving system. However, without careful thought and selection, the cost reductions can come at a price, which can be minimal reductions in overall storage requirements, excessive implementation time, or poorly managed data, any or all of which result in higher long-terms costs.

Whatever the potential negatives of poor selection and implementation, the benefits gained by archiving a successful solution can however bring significant business benefits: Reduction in e-mail storage footprint; improved backup/restore times; removal of the need to create PST files, and improvement in corporate control, reducing risks of litigation.

Ideally, current data will be kept in place; after all it is likely to be required regularly But once it has become 90 or 180 days old the requirement of access will be low, so retrieval of an e-mail can be slower, but only by a second or two.

Once e-mail gets to a year old, the access activity will in most instances be reduced to virtually zero and retrieval can take a little longer. This means that you will be able to place this data on a DVD library. With the modern techniques of cached libraries, even this can give a perfectly adequate response time.

Potential Problems

This is fine, and moving data to lower cost devices under some form of control mechanism is usually defined as Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). However, with the volume and profile of your e-mail, an unstructured campaign of simply archiving can impact the long-term management of data and have significant negatives, such as: retaining unwanted/inappropriate data, potentially high management costs in managing the data (over time), unnecessarily high storage demands, poor repository architecture that results in poor performance, management or cause unnecessary/complex backup strategy, and solution not aligned with your storage management solution, resulting in higher long terms costs.

There is certainly no doubting the wisdom in archiving, however, what does need to take place is a planned campaign to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the e-mail archiving system, or the TCO of your e-mail data. This is known as planning an E-mail Lifecycle Management (ELM) project.

When implementing an ELM project, e-mail management differs from conventional file management in that the volume of data is many times higher and much of it is unsolicited data that may have been retained for reference in the future. Most likely we do not consider deleting it, nor do we have the time to review and delete it.

So what makes an effective ELM project? Keep these checkpoints in mind:

  • Review the existing data.
  • Establish your requirement.
  • Decide what you want to archive (identify those mailboxes most important to archive; and from what dates you want to archive).

Then, before archiving, remove unwanted/inappropriate data (this will reduce the volume of data to be archived and improve the efficiency of your system). Compressing data in-situ (optional) halves the storage requirement before archiving.
Most importantly, implement your archiving program IN STAGES to meet your requirements and capabilities.

To summarize, an ELM project should:

  • Remove non business data (e.g. search for and remove mp3 and avi files).
  • Compress data before archiving is easy and provides breathing space before starting on the major project.

E-mail archiving can resolve many problems, but the objectives can seem to inherently conflict: how can you retain all e-mail yet reduce storage volumes? The answers lie in prioritizing aims and assessing where any, compromises can be reached.
Keep in mind that e-mail archiving systems have been built around the requirements that all organizations have seen and developed over the last five-plus years - your credit union may be unique in detail but its requirements will be common with most other organizations.

Be clear in your objectives, and once you have your ELM strategy under your control, you will soon see a reduction in high cost storage requirements.

Dave Hunt is CEO of C2C, which provides applications to optimize Microsoft Exchange and reduce legal risks associated with e-mail. For info: www.c2c.com.

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