When evaluating a personal budget, advisors often recommend that you begin by drawing a line between items of necessity and those of luxury. When evaluating archiving providers for your school and district data, it’s wise to start evaluating product features in a similar manner.
What archiving features matter most for schools and districts will assuredly vary, because each of the latter has unique circumstances, needs and requirements. Even so, the list below can be used as a starting point for sorting out what you should consider having, as opposed to what’s simply nice to have.
Meeting Requirements of eDiscovery and State and Federal Open Records Laws
Archiving exists to fulfill eDiscovery requests and Open Records laws, so be sure to review and confirm you’re meeting the requirements for your location.
Compatibility with Your Service Provider
A solution that is not compatible with your email provider is of no use, and should be one of the first boxes checked when searching for a solution.
Flexible Retention Policies
A retention policy determines the period of time your data is archived. Some providers do not allow flexibility when it comes to a retention policy, but rather only allow you to select from a list of predetermined periods. Flexibility is helpful for meeting specific requirements.
Data Integrity and Redundancy
Data integrity is essential, so be sure you know how and where your data is stored. It is prudent to ensure that data is held in multiple, secure, off-site locations that are separated geographically.
Ability to Easily Search Data and Download to Usable File Types
True archiving includes robust search tools that accompany the indexing included within an archiving system. An IT professional should not be required to generate a successful search, as the search tools should be layman-friendly. Downloaded file types should also be easily usable, such as PST or EML files. Be sure to evaluate what file types are available for download and don’t be forced into one vendor-driven choice.
Tracks Archive Access and System Updates
Archive Administrators should be able to quickly, and easily, discover who has conducted searches, what they did with the search results and when all of this happened. The records, moreover, need to be protected from changes.
Ability to Perform Litigation Holds
Archives should provide the ability to create and maintain litigation holds. Litigation holds allow the archive administrator to place a hold on files that supersede the retention policy, enabling you to keep data longer than the standard period of time.
An Evolving Solution
Archiving requirements and what technically constitutes an archive has evolved in the past 15 years, and it will likely continue to evolve alongside a world in motion. It is important to select an archiving solution that does not merely fit today, but also shows evidence of a capacity to evolve over time.
Reliable Customer Support
As a fallback plan, or simply for additional assistance, it’s good to select a provider based on the merit of their customer support. Be sure to ask for references, or even consider calling their customer support line to see how quickly you can connect to a representative.
Some individuals liken archiving to purchasing insurance, and this comparison is not without merit. When a FOIA request or lawsuit is imminent, the features listed above will help you deliver what’s needed and fulfill your requirements.