With a basic plan in hand, compliance requirements defined and goals set, the next steps in the process are product...
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selection, deployment and validation.
Product selection will begin with an assessment of what is already owned and what is needed to enable an SAP data archiving system. In many cases, a consultant or vendor partner will become part of the process, simply because much of the technology under consideration will be unfamiliar to the IT staff and management. In those situations, it pays to bring in a professional services organization with a proven background and documented successes to assess the plan and current environment and to validate goals.
If feasible, pilot projects should be planned and then executed on secondary systems, so that live data is not affected during the validation phase. A solid experimental phase will help to avoid problems that could lead to downtime or, worse, data loss.
Most enterprises may not have the resources to approach a deployment in a methodological fashion, however, and they may be forced to work with live data sets. In those cases, replication of the data is a must before proceeding. In turn, it is better to have third-party support involved to proactively identify problems, before those problems affect any operational elements.
SAP enterprise products have created an ecosystem of support products, some of which are ideally designed for archiving and protecting data. What makes those products unique is how they deal with transactional data, which is the lifeblood of an SAP solution. Transactional data has multiple links across data files, tables and indexes and is usually arranged in a symbiotic relationship with other data elements. For example, an invoice will be linked to customer files, inventory files, sales history files and a multitude of other data elements. For archiving to be successful, all of the linked data must be preserved for each and every transaction.
Therein lies the primary requirement for an SAP archival solution. Simply put, can the archival solution recreate the data environment encountered at the time of data entry?
Several products and services have come onto the market that automate archiving and also provide the recovery environment to retrieve data with ease. Most of the vendors playing in that space require the purchase of both software and hardware to enable their solutions, and some work with more exotic technologies such as data virtualization or hosted storage. Administrators must be careful when selecting a product to make sure that there are no requirements (hidden or otherwise) that are not serviceable.
Ideally, a successful SAP implementation will meet several criteria:
- Improve performance of the active transactional database system.
- Protect data from corruption, loss or unauthorized access.
- Reduce overall storage costs.
- Meet compliance, corporate and legislative requirements.
- Automate most of the process, reducing the administrative burden.
- Provide reporting capabilities for validation needs.
- Ease the retrieval of archived data.
- Handle application upgrades or changes that affect the archived dataset.
- Automatically retire data that is no longer needed.
Meeting those criteria and the defined goals indicates a successful implementation of an SAP data archiving solution. Of course, regular testing and data validation should be performed to ensure that the solution is delivering the appropriate business value. In the end, SAP administrators will find that two primary goals are met by the solution: improvement of transactional data system performance and reliable storage of archived data.
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.