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Digital archiving best practices for resellers

Digital archiving can be applied to many different types of data, all of which continue to grow in size (content and composition) as well as quantity. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured data including database, email, slide decks and office documents as well as audio, video and still images are all candidates for digital archiving. There are many different reasons for archiving data, from regulatory compliance or self-governance to preservation of intellectual property (IP) for long-term preservation purposes.

Data archiving is also a key technique for reducing a customer's data footprint. Reducing data footprints has many benefits (see the free white paper

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"Business benefits of data footprint reduction"), including enhancing overall IT infrastructure utilization and service delivery.

More on digital archiving

Smaller vendors aim at digital archiving as growth market

Digital archiving helps avoid ediscovery litigation

Disc drives for data archiving

Needless to say, there are many opportunities for a channel company to provide digital data archiving and compliance-related services. Developing a digital archiving and compliance practice poses many challenges, including deciding what area of compliance focus (CFR, HIPAA, PCI, FRCP, SOX), type of archiving (structured, semi-structured or unstructured) and industry verticals should be pursued. Another decision channel pros need to make is if their focus will be on services, solutions including hardware and software or some combination of services and solutions.

The particular vertical area you choose to focus on will have a bearing on the skill sets needed for personnel who will be delivering digital archiving services. Given that digital data archiving involves understanding applications, business rules and dependencies upon data, the knowledge that resellers have of particular verticals is important. If you're going to focus on medical and life science verticals, you will want personnel that are familiar with HIPAA regulations as well as applicable applications, lexicons and terminology.

In addition to knowledge of the business processes and terminology for a particular vertical, understanding of applicable applications and technologies is a plus. Aside from business and regulation aspects, digital data archiving involves understanding underlying technologies, data classification, databases and associated database policy rules and how customers are storing and archiving data.

The data archiving tools that resellers use to archive data to a storage medium -- and the compliance rules and policies that have to be taken into account -- will determine when data needs be archived, how long to retain data and how to dispose of old data. It's crucial that resellers be well-trained on a digital archiving tool and be able to deliver dependable, predictable data archiving for customers. If performing data classification, archiving and digital shredding for customers, resellers should check with legal counsel to determine what level of indemnification is applicable.

As a reseller looking to offer new or expanded digital archiving services, building on your current customer base, relationships and previous success should be part of your go-to market plan. Resellers can offer existing customers new or expanded services while leveraging an established base of clients as both references and lead generation into new vertical or specialty areas of digital archiving.

An additional venue for finding new customer prospects, independent of partner and business alliance programs and initiatives, is to get involved with various professional groups. If you are involved with storage-related services and solutions, you may already be involved with Storage Networking User Groups (SNUGs). From an archiving perspective, you also want to get involved with, or at least on the contact list for your local chapter of the Archiving and Records Management Association (ARMA) or other specific regulation and compliance trade groups including HIPPA, Sarbannes-Oxley, Sarbannes-Oxley Forum and PCI Security Standards Council among others.

About the author:

Greg Schulz is founder and Sr. analyst of the independent storage analyst firm the StorageIO group (www.storageio.com) and author of the book Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

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This was first published in September 2007

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