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Businesses today are data custodians and their approach to protecting and securing client data assets is essential for success. This was clear at ILTA in Las Vegas this year, as security concerns topped the agenda. Without clearly defined data storage policies, firms risk losing clients, considering that their failure to comply on data governance can result in a law firm being removed from consideration.

As a result, archiving is a subject which has recently come back onto numerous firms’ agendas as a top strategic target. Across all industries, clients are becoming more educated on data security and what they require from their suppliers. Many of the law firms I work with have clients who now regularly ask for copies of their supplier’s information security policies, ISO accreditations, and reports on client data access and security.

Business Rules and Challenges

There are a multitude of reasons why law firms look to implement information archiving; the core focus of any archiving project tends to be driven by a desire to accomplish one or more of the following items:

  • Secure information more effectively
  • Reduce investment in expensive data storage
  • Increase accessibility of live data
  • Improve disaster recovery response capability

Before a firm can implement any level of archiving on its databases, fundamental business rules need to be understood and defined. One of the key metrics that needs to be determined is at what point a work space should be marked as closed. Within law firms, this usually occurs after all bills have been settled, no time remains to be billed on the engagement and everything has been closed within the practice management system.

However, professional staff often require time upon completion of work to ensure all documentation and email is filed and stored correctly; this process is driven partly by firm culture. It’s beneficial to include a specific phase in a firm’s archiving project that is focused on analytics. This phase would be designed to study and identify an average or optimal time from closure that no new data gets added to workspaces.

Typically, this phase ranges between six and 12 months after closure within a LOB platform, depending on the business processes in place. Failure to understand this business activity can cause major headaches for firms later on, with work spaces constantly having to be restored from archive to allow staff to add further content. Once this time frame has been identified, it may lead to further discussions about current business practice and the need to change it, especially if data is constantly being added over an extended time frame.

The situation can be remedied by including separate annual or client-specific work spaces that allows data to be archived. Other solutions include using notifications to alert end-users prior to work spaces being migrated and the creation of temporary work spaces, which later can be merged into the archived location, to accommodate additional write access as required.

Implementation and User Experience: What to Consider

When implementing archiving, for governance or technical reasons, maintaining the user experience is a critical consideration. Working with law firms to ensure that the reasons for archiving are understood, decisions need to be made regarding how users will continue to locate and use content.

Key points that should not be overlooked include:

  • Preservation of document numbers, histories, and metadata
  • Search configuration
  • Visibility and security of archived content
  • User training
  • Email Filing and Linked Folders

Technical Challenges

Often, when firms first decide to implement archiving, they find that they have a significant amount of content that needs to be archived; this differs from the quantity that will need to be archived on an ongoing basis once the archiving process is in place. In iManage Work, we recommend using a custom SQL process for the initial archival as it affords significantly better performance. When processing via the API, the required system overhead could impact performance whilst running as the process could require an extended period of time to complete. Once the initial SQL migration has been completed, the preferred method going forward would be via an API-based application that can manage the archiving process autonomously.

Using a purpose-designed product to perform archiving, firms can manage how crucial metadata is retained once work spaces are archived while still applying new security configurations. Years of experience in the management of such engagements and processes has resulted in similar best practice workflows being implemented across firms of many different sizes.

Conclusion

Archiving supports good data governance, increases performance of live environments by reducing data volumes, and can decrease the cost of storing archived information. It may be beneficial for firms to seek professional guidance as this can be one of the more complex tasks involved in managing a DMS.

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