Monday, January 18, 2010

Why do you think it’s called back-up?

Why do you think it’s called back-up?

So begins a story that seems to rear its ugly head at just about every organization, large or small, private or public. The act of having information is rather different than managing it. The act of storing data on back-up media, while essential, is rather different than retaining it in an archive. The differences are far more than location or semantic. Unless and until everyone understands the issues, the world of e-discovery pain or records management failure will continue to be felt again and again, seemingly without end in sight.

So what does the enlightened leader know to be true.

Disaster recovery is an essential activity—making sure that vital records are available to the business in the unlikely event of disaster. The way in which disaster recovery is done is by taking huge chunks of data and parking it in a device that maximizes the amount of stuff to be stored but generally does not provide functionality to promote finding the “needle in the haystack”. Thus unearthing an individual record for business purposes or a piece of potentially relevant evidence for an audit or lawsuit is not best accomplished with the typical disaster recovery back-up tapes for example. They just weren’t built for this purpose.

In the context of a lawsuit no doubt the litigants will have to ask whether or not information exists that may be relevant to a lawsuit. But actually that is not really the best question to ask. The better question is if information exists, where is the information located, and how can we find and preserve it as efficiently as possible? Further, in reality the best time to ask any of the questions is before you are forced to do discovery because you can prepare and make sure you have the right technology for the job. So often companies in a lawsuit learn the hard way—yep, we technically have the information but it is locked in disaster recovery back-up tapes for which we no longer have the software or hardware to open the tapes. In other words, it is there but opening the doors to have access is made very complicated and expensive due to the technology we chose to store it on.

So what are the takeaways

• Disaster recovery back-up tapes are essential but for backing up data, not for retaining one of a kind records.
• Having information that is not readily available is not proper management.
• For records you need to have an archive that promotes access and good efficient business
• Not all technology is the same—know what you seek to solve and find the right tools to make it happen.

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