While I recommend using a software application to help you find and identify old data, with a disk archive solution you can easily get this older data off primary storage with a simple manual move of that data.
A manual move is exactly what it says, identifying older data and via the OS moving that data to the archive. The other manual part is the user interaction with the archive.
With the data movement methods we have talked about in the past -- global file systems, agent movers, or agentless movers -- the user access to the old data is transparent. In other words, users don't have to know where the old data is because the movers handle the linkage.
In a manual move, they have to know where that old data is or at least YOU do. Don't panic. Remember, this data was moved for a reason; it wasn't being accessed. Chances are very high that it won't be accessed again ... ever. That said, you have to provide your users some guidance on how to locate this old data.
One way to communicate this is to leverage the way you currently describe where user data is today: home directories. Establish a share called "Archive" and simply tell users that if they can't find an old file in their home directory to look in the archive directory. On the archive share, recreate the user's directory structure as you perform your manual moves.
Many users can navigate between the two storage areas with no problem. If they can, that means a big savings in software for the organization. If they don't, it means a support call to you. If you measure the likeliness of this call happening and the soft cost to help the user, it still may be less expensive to the organization than buying a data movement solution.
A disk archive is the key enabler of manual moves; with tape, you have to manage a robot and a tape library. While that can be scripted, it's outside the scope of most of us. Disk archive is just another file system, one that scales and is designed to retain data. Moving data to a file system is well within the scope of most IT professionals.
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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.