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What will the archiving of the future look like?

Part 1 of the series of articles: Archiving over time

The question about the right way to archive data is as old as IT itself. 

However, it is precisely because IT has changed so much over the past decades that archiving also has to keep constantly developing and adapting. However, there is one big difference: In contrast to "normal" IT systems, which are intended for a few years of use and are then replaced, archiving concepts and technologies have to be designed in such a way that they have life cycles of twenty, thirty or even a hundred years. The average retention period for archived documents is significantly longer than the service life of the systems used to create and process the documents.

In the interests of setting out a dependable strategy for the future, we will start the first part of our series of articles by looking back and examining the changing demands on archiving over the last 30 years.

Over the last 30 years, requirements for archiving solutions have been subject to constant fundamental changes. In doing so, the paperwork naturally piles up. 

In the early stages of archiving, the main focus was on storing the information in the right way. As a general rule, storage hardware is replaced two to three times over a period of ten years, to take advantage of efficiency gains brought about through continued development of the hardware. As a result, every archiving system had to be separated from the physical infrastructure. 

Furthermore, early archiving solutions first had to implement basic functions. The audit-proofing of the data, indexing and prevention of duplication (single instancing) were the most important factors in the first generation of archiving solutions.

The major innovation in the second generation of archiving solutions was the idea of creating a centralized archiving infrastructure that could meet all the archiving needs of companies and manage all the information in a joint centralized repository. This concept is known as Unified Archiving. 

With this concept, it was necessary to develop as many connectors as possible to systems in which there was data that was required to be archived. Examples of this include the implementation of email and SharePoint archiving, as well as the automated archiving of files in the file system.

Improved management of the data came along as a second important factor. Retention management allowed the retention period of archived data to be controlled in a highly granular way for the first time. Given that by then, information from a wide range of different sources was being brought together in archives, it made sense to connect the pieces of information to each other and to establish cross-links between them. The creation of hierarchical structures and dynamic tagging allowed for relationships to be understood and folders to be mapped. In addition, Unified Archiving made it possible to formulate key rules, which govern how data is handled in an overarching way.

 

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