The Fundamentals of Electronic Archiving, Part 2 of 3: Pros, Pitfalls, Perils

The Fundamentals of Electronic Archiving Pros, Pitfalls, Perils
Part 2 of 3 

Electronic archiving has historically been perceived as primarily driven by the need to limit investment in expensive hard disk storage. Business needs and the value of archiving e-documents were typically ignored –yielding disappointing results and often the abandonment of the archiving project itself. In extreme cases, some enterprises even reverted to printing e-documents and having the resulting output handled by traditional paper archiving processes. Identifying the good, bad and ugly facets of electronic archiving implementation provides important lessons for developing a comprehensive electronic archiving solution.

The Good: The value proposition of electronic archiving is twofold. First, it enables an enterprise to secure corporate records so it can find information needed to conduct business as well as comply with regulations, prepare for litigation, and engage in good business practices. It also manages the retention and destruction of business records according to defined corporate policies. Second, it enables better performance of computer systems and lowers the cost of document storage by eliminating older information that no longer needs to be retained.

The Bad: There are essentially two issues plaguing electronic archiving. The first–silo thinking, results in archiving projects that lack necessary features and functionalities because their design and implementation is largely driven by the information technology department without sufficient consultation with business and legal departments. The second–silo implementation, results in multiple electronic archiving silos within a given corporation with no overall enterprise-wide thinking. This multiplies asset and management costs and greatly increases the complexity of information search and retrieval.

The Ugly: The lesser known issue surrounding electronic archiving is the total cost of ownership of technical implementations. Most of the cost/benefit analysis in an IT purchase focuses upon the acquisition cost of hardware and overlooks the total cost of use. This is typically the case in electronic archiving implementation where choices between differing technologies are made based solely upon the features, functionality and cost of the solution without taking into account additional costs of software, hardware, services, people and the costs of retrieval in the event of litigation or regulatory compliance requests. Because archiving is a long term project, these operational costs can dwarf acquisition costs and overshadow their benefits. Over time, scale increases as more e-documents are produced, maintained and become subject to records management and archiving.

Armed with an understanding of the fundamental differences between paper documents and e-documents, and an awareness of the potential implementation pitfalls, it is possible to design, implement and deploy an electronic archiving project that reaps clear business benefits for an enterprise.

** This is the second part in a three-part series which comprise an abridged version of the article “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Electronic Archiving,” written by Daniel Garrie and published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.