It's 2004, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? (Part II)

Article excerpt

Byline: CHAN CHEE KEONG, Managing Director Southeast Asia

Establishing a Data Retention and Protection Policy:

Tape, Magnetic Disk, or Optical Media?

SEC Rule 17a-4 specifies that data must be stored on "non-rewriteable, not-erasable" media. For other regulations, WORM storage is not explicitly required but may be a de-facto requirement. (Its like saying that firewalls and anti-virus software are not required by any law but no IT organization lives without them.) Organizations must examine their options and choose the best data-retention storage medium for their needs. In most cases, magnetic disk storage will be the medium of choice for several key reasons:

Fast access to data. The intention of most of these regulations is not only to retain records but to enable investigators and company lawyers to find records quickly. SEC Rule 17a-4 specifies that companies must respond to requests for data in days, not weeks. When a customer service agent is on the phone refinancing a mortgage or processing an insurance claim, customers expect an answer within seconds. In investigations of the side effects of a drug, authorities may need clinical trial data urgently. HIPAA compliance depend on fast and secure access to patient records. These needs all preclude the use of offline or off-site storage on tape or optical disks.

Search ability. Magnetic disk storage enables fast searches across large amounts of data without the need for locating and mounting tapes or optical media. Use of robotic libraries often entails determining the right cartridge, loading it, then waiting to retrieve the data. This can make indexing or searching across many files very slow and expensive.

Cost-effectiveness. The cost of ATA magnetic disk storage continues to drop, making it more and more competitive to optical and tape media. Tape media alone is still quite inexpensive, but does not include the cost of the libraries, drives, maintenance, slow retrieval performance, and media management. When total cost of ownership (TCO) is considered, the fact that all data stored on a magnetic disk storage system is quickly accessible all the time means searches are faster and less costly. This makes magnetic disk storage the clear choice.

In the past, optical and tape media offered WORM storage capability. Magnetic disk storage systems now exist that enable users to write records that cannot be modified under any circumstances. The Network Appliance regulatory compliance solution includes integrated hardware and specialized software (Data ONTAP, SnapLock that runs on allits primary and nearline storage systems. SnapLock is not just an add-on piece of software but an inherent part of the storage operating system that can beactivated for compliance.

Choosing A Magnetic Disk Technology

ATA-based disk drive systems have improved in reliability and capacity while dropping in price, which makes them highly competitive. However hardware alone does not provide a solution. An optimized storage microkernal and file system that provide the performance needed for indexing, search, fast backup, and remote mirroring are critical as well. Here are key characteristics to look for in an ATA-based storage system:

Speed. Slow system drives can tie up servers and users unnecessarily when archiving email and other records to compliant volumes. Look for a high performance storage system that doesnt sacrifice speed to achieve compliance. Storage should write data to compliant volumes at the same speed as other volumes.

A stable, solid OS. A field-proven operating system with years of continuous debugging and enhancement provides a solid, reliable compliance solution. Beware of solutions built on new, unproven platforms.

A common OS. Using the same OS and management interface consistently across all product lines enables a vendor to give users great flexibility in architecting compliant solutions while maintaining a low TCO. …