Learning How to “Let It Go” with Data Archiving

February 23, 2015

Image_Data Archiving_Balloons Flying Away

It’s time for a system change, perhaps a consolidation of older, hard-to-maintain legacy systems. Maybe a merger or acquisition has occurred and your organization is moving to a new system that offers enhanced business processing. Well, regardless of the reason, this change is easier said than done. There is data lurking in your older legacy systems, which can compromise and impact how you do business and the cost of doing business today.

As a new system comes online, and you’re now operating with accurate and complete data, it is an important time to evaluate the worthiness of the older outdated source systems still lingering with your system landscape. In some occasions, there are organizations whose systems were so old that they couldn’t even find the technology skill sets to maintain them, whether that be COBOL skills, RPG or some custom shop floor green screen application.

Another issue with older data is that it’s relevancy and/or legal requirements have long expired, and now instead of being a corporate asset, the data has now become a legal liability.

For some applications, simply keeping all your data can lead to performance issues especially when organizations move towards an all-encompassing solution such as ERP. Data archival is key in keeping these systems tuned and performing at their optimum.

Irrelevant Data, A Legal Liability

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of variations of systems that push data relevancy and liability to the limit.

One such example was an educational system that kept financial information on microfiche. Some of this payroll information dated back to the 70’s. This certainly posed both liabilities and technical issues in accessing and maintaining the system’s payroll information. As a result, the IT department faced a six figure cost in accessing this data, of which, no one could determine if it was even required to retain this data in their archives.

Here’s another example – this time focusing on a legal requirement from a major consumer brands corporation. The corporation was required to keep the data on their products for seven years but not a day longer, but because environmental laws change, older products that were once not affected previous to the change, could now be. Therefore, older records beyond seven years needed to be made available to staff, in order to safeguard their brand and consumer success, while ensuring environmental and consumer compliance.

In some cases, differing data retention requirements are neccessary by geographic location. For instance, a global car manufacturer with Canadian systems could not be allowed to store consumer data for marketing purposes because of government regulations, yet the information could be used in their US locations.

What and What Not to Keep – That is the Question

When deciding what and what not to keep in your systems, please consider these tips to ensure that you get the most our of your data:

  • Be aware of any performance issues that might occur due to keeping all data within your system as opposed to the data that is truly needed.
  • Understand the new system landscape and it’s business processes completely, many times a business process can span several systems and understanding where data can break, or has expired its usage will span across the entirety of the business use case and not just one specific application.
  • For global companies, be aware of local regulations, whether region or country specific.
  • Determine the financial impact of maintaining outdated legacy systems and the personnel and energy costs required to maintain them.
  • Work with your auditors and legal teams to understand what liability outdated data can have on your organization.

Having a clear data governance strategy to ensure your business relevant data from your irrelevant data along with a data archival strategy is key. Providing a way to access key data from older, technically outdated systems, along with removing data that could be a legal liability to your organization is an action all companies and organizations need to consider as they move to new application systems. Not only does this provide cost savings in keeping those old outdated systems up and running as far as energy, cooling, IT space, it also reduces the cost in maintaining personnel with the outdated skill sets who can support those systems. Ultimately, this allows your organization to focus on “go forward” projects as opposed to looking back on outdated systems and data.


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