Over the years, products from SAP systems have permeated enterprises large and small. Businesses have come to rely...
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on SAP's Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and many other products to power their data across business units and to enable business services.
The successful implementation of SAP products has brought with it another concern, however: managing the massive amounts of data collected. To date, most administrators either have thrown more storage at the problem or have migrated historical data from live systems to offline storage, reducing active storage needs. But simply moving old data elsewhere is far from ideal, especially when one considers the requirements placed upon businesses for compliance or the need to perform e-discovery.
Legislative requirements (compliance) and legal requirements (e-discovery) have drastically changed how data is managed, stored and backed up -- driving enterprises to rethink their data management strategies. Administrators of SAP solutions are finding that those same requirements are forcing them to come up with archival strategies, which both protect the data and make it available for later retrieval -- not an easy task for a technology that constantly evolves and changes. Nevertheless, data archiving solutions are becoming critical to SAP administrators and their managers.
Many enterprises use SAP products for areas such as the integration of business processes, customer management and resource planning. The continuous usage of SAP enterprise systems results in the creation of huge amounts of enterprise data, which is stored online on an active SAP ecosystem. Over time, new and updated information is entered into the system, adding to the old data, which still resides in the SAP enterprise system. Storage needs grow exponentially as more data is created, increasing disk utilization, until events dictate that new storage be added or old data removed. However, some of the old data is critical and cannot be deleted.
The big challenge for SAP administrators is determining what data to keep and what to get rid of, before encountering problems such as data overflow, longer transaction processing times, and performance degradation. The answer to that dilemma comes in the form of data archiving.
Data archiving is becoming an important business process that is used to keep enterprise systems functioning at their peak while reducing the cost of storage by moving outdated data files from expensive high-speed SANs to offline or near online data stores. But the primary goal of data archiving is to preserve valuable data for later retrieval, and that goal dictates how effective a data archiving solution is.
Tackling an SAP data archiving project is not a task to be taken lightly. Several prerequisites need to be in place to successfully archive data in a format that moves it off active systems yet preserves it for later access. For the SAP powered business, that task proves more involved simply because of the sheer complexity of an SAP enterprise system. The drivers behind data archiving remain much the same, though. A properly executed archival solution will:
- Reduce storage costs by moving old data offline to lower-cost data stores.
- Increase efficiency by reducing the active data footprint.
- Improve backup scenarios -- smaller data sets are faster to back up.
- Speed recovery times -- smaller data sets are more portable and faster to restore.
- Improve performance -- smaller data sets index faster and reduce retrieval overhead.
- Meet compliance needs -- data is still preserved for later access and backed up.
- Provide e-discovery capabilities -- archived data is retrievable for legal needs.
Simply put, archiving the transactional information stored on an SAP enterprise system offers significant benefits that can be measured in both cost and efficiency.
Nevertheless, many organizations choose to let their online data stores grow instead of taking a house-keeping approach. Why would businesses choose to do that? It all comes down to a simple matter of economics and data delivery requirements, or simply the fear that needed data will not be available instantly.
Those fears are driven by an irrational assessment of how transactional data is used. The simplified view is that with an SAP system, each minute that passes without access to transactional data equals lost revenue and productivity. That analogy will prove false in most cases, however -- for two reasons: Properly archived data is not needed for normal business operations, and large datasets slow every transaction, which can add up to a significant drop in productivity when multiplied by thousands of users.
The argument here is simple. Archiving data saves time, money and resources while protecting data for specialized retrieval.
About the Author: Frank J. Ohlhorst, CNE, MCP, L+, N+, A+, is an award winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the technology arena.