stacks of files and papers
PHOTO: shutterstock

All too often, digital archiving projects get pushed to the bottom of the priority list when planning digital workplace initiatives. People make the mistake of thinking that low storage costs and a strong search engine justify retaining all of their data. After all, what could go wrong? 

In fact, some risks are hidden in plain sight.

At a time when the first GDPR-related fines are being handed out and businesses struggle under loads of ever-increasing volumes of data, it is amazing that the use, storage and deletion of old data is being pushed off or deemed unimportant.

So let's start with a definition. Archiving is the process of storing inactive data in a secure, trackable way, until the end of a set retention period — at which point the data is deleted. Inactive data can be pulled from the archive for legal reasons or could possibly be made active again for certain business scenarios. 

Without a good archiving practice in place, organizations open themselves up to a number of possible risks.

Related Article: What We Can Learn From the GDPR's First Fines

Loss of Data

Failing to store data in a centrally managed space increases the likelihood that it will be lost forever. Employees could delete data without knowing retention period requirements. And attempts to restore this data are seldom accurate, always time consuming and in some cases, not even possible.

Confused and Stressed Out Employees

When employees are unclear about what information they need to store, they can either delete too much or keep too much. Keeping too much information can lead to unmanageable data heaps, causing stress, lack of confidence in IT tools, confusion as to what is the latest version and questions of information's relevancy.

Increased Backup Costs

While storage costs are significantly lower than 10 years ago, the good practice of backing up data a number of times still applies. The backup interval for live data will be different than the interval for inactive data, giving organizations with good archiving practices a serious boost by avoiding unnecessary costs in disk space, runtime for backup processes and the complexity of file restores.  

And yes, even when you store documents in the cloud, good reasons remain to keep an offline backup of those files.

Related Article: 4 Steps to Enhance Your Data Lifecycle Management

Search Impact

Search engines have come a long way. Yet even with modern, cloud-based engines where search results are more personal and filtered for accuracy, sending inactive data to an archive still helps. Archiving inactive data helps the search engine run smoother, by not having to process all the irrelevant information, and improves the results of the search query. Search scopes can be targeted specifically to run on the archive or on the active, collaboration information.

GDPR and Discovery

As the first GDPR fines start to make the headlines, businesses should know not to store personal identifiable information longer than necessary. If you are unable to track down that information (as it might reside on an employee's laptop or buried seven levels deep in a folder), you risk serious trouble. This is not just for big companies getting into legal compliance trouble, but goes for every organization with business dealings in the EU. The fines can go as high as 4 percent worldwide annual revenue.

Legal Compliance

Some industries are subject to certain standards around compliance, yet it can still prove difficult to come up with the correct information to state claims. Data that is not archived can be hard to track down in case of a legal demand, causing lawyers' fees to add up and potentially resulting in the loss of a court case due to inability to support claims.

Related Article: Losing Sleep Over Your Lack of Digital Policy? You Should Be

Security

At a time when data breaches happen almost daily and cyber attacks and ransomware tales headlining the news, storing inactive data in a separate container can help mitigate the risk and amount of information impacted. It allows for better monitoring on who is accessing the information and what files go missing. 

An Archiving Call to Action

With a clear understanding of the risks, it is time for action. A good archiving project is not just an IT project, but also includes: 

  • Management track — Decides what documents will be managed in the archive and the level of safety you want built in.
  • Technical track — Gets the actual archive in place, including backup and monitoring and also creates automatic processes to implement the agreed upon retention policies.
  • Business and legal track — Sets the retention policies with the legal department.
  • User adoption track — Educates your end users on how to access the archive, why the process is important and how they can easily send information to the archive.

A partner organization can help you get an archiving initiative right the first time, so you can avoid unnecessary costs and time and ultimately help in the success of the project.