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Evaluating compliance archiving vendors

Backup expert Ashley D'Costa offers suggestions for evaluating vendors of compiance archiving products.

I am with a large financial institution that is looking at archival solutions. We have all three flavors of storage (IBM, HDS and EMC) with the majority of it sitting on EMC frames. As you can imagine, we have a tremendous amount of focus on this topic from a compliance perspective. So, we have talked to them all about their products and one company seemed pretty interesting. I wanted to get your opinion on Archivas. They are a small company, but it sounds like a very solid offering. What have you heard about them? Do they have the technology to be around for a while? Is wise for our company to make such an important decision around a smaller company?
Unfortunately, I have not heard of Archivas or know much about their technology. However, here is my advice regardless of the size of the vendor you are considering for an archival product. For any vendor providing an archiving and/or compliance product, as compelling as their technology may first appear to be, I believe they must differentiate themselves along the following lines:

  • The products they offer must have a long-term roadmap (5-7 years at least).
  • You must be satisfied that the vendor itself is stable enough to be around equally as long.
  • You must be satisfied that the technology into the future is going to be well known within the industry.
  • Compliance archiving technology roadmap

    Data archiving in of itself can be addressed easily enough by most storage vendor's products; however the complication is the data retention management aspects that introduce themselves in compliance versions of these products. Since compliance archiving products require you to apply a compliance policy against your data, you must ensure that the manufacturer has a roadmap for refreshing the technology without compromising the integrity of the compliance policy you have in place.

    In all likelihood, well-established vendors will have well-developed plans in place with respect to refreshing/upgrading their technology in a way that ensures the integrity of your data and compliance policies. Less established vendors may not have a clear vision as sometimes their products are simply a reuse of existing product and, in the worst cases, with little or no foresight into what the next step might be.

    Vendor longevity

    Right now, data archiving is exhibiting a dot-com-like boom of sorts since the requirements of regulatory compliance have pushed this need into the forefront. In this current climate, there is a tumultuous sea of vendors -- some that will ride the waves and others that will sink into the depths -- until the waters calm under the banner of a stable few. Since archiving requirements, by their very nature, involve a long-term technology investment, the vendor selected should be the one that, among other things, provides the assurance that they will be in existence over the long-term as well.

    Industry-recognized technology

    The final differentiator is whether the technology you're considering is going to be industry recognized. This is especially important in the case of compliance archiving products. Should you decide to move to a different vendor's compliance archiving product, you must be able to prove that your data has been compliant during the move between technologies. Between well-established vendors, there is a good chance that technology migration is possible without compromising the integrity of your compliance policies. This is because well-established vendors tend to have well-defined and industry-recognized technology approaches. However, this is more difficult to ascertain for technology dispensed by less-known vendors.

    The bottom line

    I would say, when investing in compliance archiving products from less established vendors, be wary and do your homework. Not just with respect to the technology the vendor offers, but also with respect to whether the vendor has an industry accepted approach to their technology and whether the vendor, as a company, is being managed in a way that will ensure they will be around for at least as long as you plan to use their technology.

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