Records Management Across the Universe

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A number of market trends have made records management, retention management, e-discovery and litigation functions increasingly daunting and complex for organizations.

Digital content, for example, is growing exponentially across numerous repositories and applications, including enterprise applications, file servers, portals and application servers. At the same time, e-mail has become a primary communications tool, forcing businesses to find ways to deal with the risks and storage issues surrounding this content.

Now add the growing compliance burden — in the form of Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, SEC 17a, and many other regulations — and the demand for search technologies to provide employees with better access to content. To meet these challenges, organizations have employed technologies such as e-mail archiving, compliance applications, enterprise search and high-volume storage devices with limited results from a records and retention management perspective.

“There hasn’t been a way to apply a unified, defensible records and retention policy to content stored in multiple repositories and applications across an organization,” says Dan Ryan, chief operating officer for Stellent Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

“As a result, most organizations apply their records and retention policies in an incomplete, inconsistent fashion. Stellent Universal Records Management (URM) solves these issues.”

He suggests that organizations have been taking an upside-down approach — rather than using software to define policies and apply them to content, they start with technology — e-mail archiving systems, enterprise content management (ECM) systems, records management applications, storage devices, scanning applications, etc. — and attempt to use each application’s native features to address their retention and records management needs.

In almost all enterprises, however, a vast swath of important content languishes with no retention management at all. This partial and inconsistent application of policy, says Ryan, is at best a missed opportunity to manage risk, lower costs and reduce clutter for end users. In many cases, since inconsistent application of policy is worse than having no policy at all, it undercuts the legal and compliance drivers that got the organization into the records and retention business in the first place.

Stellent URM makes it possible to apply records and retention policies, as well as legal discovery and holds, to all relevant content (not just records) across the enterprise. This ranges from e-mail attachments and content stored in file servers to physical records stored in a warehouse. Furthermore, the product suite defines, manages and executes these records and retention management policies for all enterprise content from a single server. It is designed to facilitate the application of litigation or audit holds by freezing content across the enterprise and makes it easier to locate information during legal discovery.

The URM agent architecture enables companies to leverage investments in other technology systems by enforcing retention policies and schedules within existing repositories where content is stored. It can apply records and retention schedules and litigation holds to content located in nearly any repository or application. This enables companies to leave content in its existing location rather than moving it to a central repository for records and retention management.

“The key benefit of this approach is that rules are directly applied to content where it resides,” says Ryan. “Agents also send information back to the Stellent Universal Records Management server, enabling it to maintain an up-to-date catalog of all critical enterprise content.”

The agent APIs are open and published. The company is also partnering with e-mail archive vendors to develop agents that apply records and retention management policies and litigation holds to content residing within their applications. These individual applications will continue to perform their functions, but will do so in ways consistent with enterprise policies.

Ryan characterizes the three primary audiences for URM as information technology (IT) departments, legal and compliance teams, and records managers.

“Two of the biggest challenges IT departments face today are accommodating content storage growth and ensuring applications and search functions operate efficiently in the face of rapidly increasing content,” he says. “Stellent Universal Records Management can help IT staffs address these issues by instituting content retention schedules and policies — developed or approved by the legal departments or the business units responsible for the content — that systematically facilitate the disposition of outdated or underutilized content in technology systems across the enterprise.”

Stellent released agents for Stellent Content Server, network file shares and Symantec Enterprise Vault in the second quarter of 2006. Stellent will continue to release agents for other systems, such as Microsoft SharePoint as the year progresses. The base application is priced at $100,000 USD. Agents for in-place management range from $10,000 to $50,000.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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