The end of a year marks an important milestone, and is a logical opportunity to take an electronic snapshot of all documents, presentations, e-mail messages, calendars and appointments, and contact records.
The question is: Which documents should be archived, and onto which media, so as to strike a balance between availability (instant is best) and expense (instant availability costs more).
"Depending on your business, there might be federal or state regulatory requirements that dictate what needs to be preserved, and for how long," says Dave Minns, client-services manager at Storage Guardian.
"In our experience, the most conservative approach is to use online backup and to institute a comprehensive business-document-retention policy that examines all data types and distinguishes between 'operationally critical' data and 'important but static' data," Minns says.
"When selecting an online backup provider, make sure that the provider lets you define a data-retention policy that can migrate aged data to less-expensive storage, and that does not delete it after 30 days."
Implementing Backup Lifecycle Management
Storage Guardian recommends a "set it and forget it" approach based on Backup Lifecycle Management (BLM), which intelligently migrates "static" data to lower-cost storage media that can cost as little as 50 cents per compressed gigabyte.
Examples of static data that are good candidates for this approach:
• File types that will have only a single generation/version, and won't change again: photos, audio-visual media, PDFs, images, one-time log files, etc.
• E-mail, calendar, task, to-do records that have aged past a user-defined point in time
• Instant-message and Web-chat logs
• Voice-recording files
• Folder structures holding prior years' business-record files
Operationally critical data that should be kept in high-availability storage include:
• Exchange, Outlook, SharePoint, GroupWise, Notes, and other e-mail-system data stores
• Documents that are continually changing, such as financial records (QuickBooks, Quicken)
• SQL and SQL-style databases. These are dynamic in nature, and typically hold active information as well as aged information
• Operating-system-related files and components needed for bare-metal restores
Owners of many small businesses are still feeling cautious about the economic climate; for some, this has meant reduced IT budgets and headcount. Small business that don't have a dedicated IT team should talk with their IT consultant or managed-services provider to determine what is the most cost-effective approach for the company.