Three Pitfalls to Avoid When Decommissioning Legacy Applications

Three common pitfalls to avoid when decommissioning a legacy system or systems and archiving the data are: 1) treating the project as a backup rather than an archive, 2) archiving an incomplete data selection, and 3) failing to take advantage of records management capabilities in your archive.

Based on our experience archiving data from hundreds of legacy systems, we have helped clients avoid these mistakes and offer these insights to make your project successful.

Pitfall #1: Backing Up Legacy Data

caution imageBackups serve a valuable purpose in data protection while an application is still in use. However, retaining a backup of data after decommissioning an application is usually insufficient. This is because an archive serves a fundamentally different purpose.

Backups are designed with the intent to restore data to a production application, if necessary. Often, this restoration is dependent on some features of the application which uses the data. If the application has been decommissioned, it may not be possible to gain access to the data due to the inability to fully restore the data.

Sometimes backups take the form of copying the data to another database platform using an ETL tool. This can allow complete access to the data over time, but only if there are subject matter experts (SMEs) who understand the data and access patterns.

Backups do not provide records management capabilities. These may be necessary to address requests for deletion of personal information, such as a GDPR request, or deleting data over time as it becomes obsolete or requires disposition as a matter of corporate policy.

In contrast, the purpose of an archive is to provide secure access to all data from an application that has been decommissioned. An archive is independent of the legacy production system and does not require SMEs for data access. An archive also provides records management capabilities.

Recommendation:

We recommend using a full-featured archiving platform that provides interfaces to access the data and has records management capabilities built in. When decommissioning a legacy system, we also recommend doing a full archiving project that captures the necessary data model, query, and reporting intelligence required to retain the value of the data. This process can also establish record retention rules based on corporate policies.

Pitfall #2: Archiving an Incomplete Data Selection

Some archive approaches only handle discrete or structured data (e.g., relational database tables) and do not handle associated files such as documents, spreadsheets, images, or videos. Those files may be left on a file system without the necessary protections afforded by a platform which archives all the related data in a single archive. Retaining the unstructured data in a separate system risks loss of data, incomplete application of records management policies, complex backup strategies, and additional IT resources to manage multiple systems.

Recommendation:

Use an archiving platform that handles both structured and unstructured data to simplify management of archived data. This helps ensure that all organizational data, structured and unstructured, are subject to access, backup, and retention.

Pitfall #3: Neglecting Records Management

We touched on records management earlier. Here are some more details on why this matters.

Many corporations have complex policies regarding records management for different types and sources of data. One global financial industry customer we worked with had several thousand rules for data retention. These corresponded with different national, state, and local requirements. While many commercial software packages contain records management capabilities, once the data is archived outside that original application and the application is decommissioned, it now becomes a requirement that the archive can manage the policies. Lack of data retention handling can put the company at risk for legal action, government audits and fines, and potentially substantial financial loss.

Recommendation:

Use a full-featured archive with flexible capabilities for defining different types of record disposal policies, including duration, specific date, and request-based purging of records. This latter item is becoming increasingly important, with the adoption of GDPR in the European Union and the growing awareness of consumers to how corporations store and use their information.

OpenText InfoArchive supports both structured and unstructured content and provides records management and other recommended capabilities. We’ve done a number of projects with InfoArchive and recommend it.

For more tips on making your archiving or decommissioning a success, see “10 Best Practices for Data Archiving and Application Decommissioning.”

Need help with your project? Contact us.