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8/20/2009
09:36 AM
George Crump
George Crump
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Cloud Storage As An On Demand Data Archive

The challenge that most archive systems have is they are too big for the job. Some organizations, especially in the small to medium sized business market, may not want or need to move all their inactive data to a secondary storage tier, yet they know they have specific electronic documents that from time to time need to be retained and locked down.

The challenge that most archive systems have is they are too big for the job. Some organizations, especially in the small to medium sized business market, may not want or need to move all their inactive data to a secondary storage tier, yet they know they have specific electronic documents that from time to time need to be retained and locked down.Depending on whose research you believe, in the typical data center 80% or more of the data on primary storage has not been accessed in the last 90 days. The traditional archive method is to move all or most of the data set to a secondary storage tier. For large businesses and enterprises archiving is an extremely cost effective way to reduce primary storage expenditures.

For medium sized and smaller data centers they often have enough capacity or the cost savings to move to an archive does not justify the expense in establishing that archive. In many cases it is easier and in some cases less expensive for them to just expand their primary storage investment. As we describe in our article "Archiving in Place" with the right technology primary storage can be expanded in a way that allows older data to spin down and not require the power and cooling required that it used to.

While these organizations may not see the value in archiving as a way to cut primary storage cost, these organizations still have email, documents and other forms of data that need to be archived for the traditional data retention reasons and to be able to have a verifiable original. Doesn't it make more sense to make sure those specific documents are retained and available for safe keeping instead of managing a huge archive full of data that you will likely never need?

Medium sized and larger organizations can benefit from either a hybrid cloud solution or archive solution as we demonstrate in our latest video on Cloud Archive. Companies like Iron Mountain, Nirvanix and others allow organizations to archive specific content, email or other data to the cloud without the need for purchasing a large storage platform internally. The organization just pays for the capacity they use. Since the focus of this use case is retention, not just dumping old data, they need to make sure their cloud provider can provide capabilities like Write Once Read Many (WORM) storage as well as time or event based retention of data.

Smaller organizations may be able to be even more granular in the data that they want to retain and lock down. For example contracts, signed proposals or statements of work, customer purchase orders, copies of tax filings and the like. All are done electronically today and most small businesses later print these documents and then file them. All of these documents need to be locked down in a manner that is tamper proof. Instead these organizations should look to services like those from companies like iForem where data retention is charged on a per file basis for the lifetime of the file, no monthly membership to remember, just store the data one time and your done.

In either case, medium and smaller organizations can count on backup for the "never need data", while not perfect data can be recovered, just in case you do end up needing it. It is still finding the needle in the haystack, but at least you can get to it. For the retained data where you know there is a higher expectancy on need, it needs to be put in a smaller haystack that is secure, searchable, reasonably quick to access and potentially stored in a WORM format. That way when you do need this information you can prove it was in an immutable form.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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