Aug 03 2023

Agencies Moving to Digital Recordkeeping Shouldn’t Neglect Backup and Recovery

Backup as a Service solutions scale with agencies’ data and serve as a safeguard in the event of a system failure or cyberattack in which data is ransomed — or worse, deleted.

Agencies transitioning from paper to digital record keeping should take a holistic approach that considers Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions in case of system failure or a cyberattack.

Some agencies digitalize the front end of the record keeping process without adopting backup and recovery technologies, the digital equivalent of paper archives for documents.

The National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Management and Budget jointly set a deadline of June 30, 2024, for all federal agencies to manage all permanent records in an electronic format. While some agencies are taking the NARA directive seriously, many, such as the IRS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, still receive hundreds of millions of paper forms annually and cite funding as a hurdle to digitalization.

For those agencies, retention of digital records may be an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be.

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Agencies Don’t Always Factor Data Retention into Digital Record Keeping

In some cases, making the switch to digital record keeping significantly changes how data is input, received and processed by agencies. They must ensure that those things not only are possible but that whatever solutions they implement do not require extra steps, such as making data in one format readable downstream.

To further streamline processes, agencies should be thinking about how much data they will have in five to 10 years and how long they’ll need to retain it for, since every agency has its own retention requirements with different storage and technology needs.

Agencies that saved this issue to address another day may find that they’re running out of storage space; worse, they may have experienced a catastrophic system event and need to recover data. Backup and recovery procedures are commonly overlooked and therefore untested.

LEARN MORE: 4 best practices for cloud-based backup and recovery.

Some agencies require a BaaS solution. Rather than having their IT teams manage backups onsite, a third-party provider handles their maintenance and management in a public, private or hybrid cloud environment. Others choose to keep data in a data center and back it up to an alternate location.

Relying on backup and recovery solutions and technologies within back-end storage infrastructure that take snapshots of an agency’s data ensures agencies have multiple fail-safes in place. IT infrastructures typically enable multiple such capabilities.

The Benefits of Backup as a Service Solutions

One benefit of BaaS is that moving data to the cloud helps agencies avoid buying more infrastructure; the cloud simply scales as data volume increases. Should something happen to an agency’s primary data center, data can be restored from the cloud or moved to an alternate location, downloaded and recovered that way.

By first determining how fast data must be recovered in the event of an incident, from a few hours to within 30 days, agencies can set a retention policy and then find a cost-effective solution. Mission-critical data typically requires faster recovery and therefore more expensive solutions.

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If an agency must report data three to five years back, retention policies must ensure that reporting continues, while less consequential data may not even have a legal requirement that it be retained at all.

Agencies also may require deduplication capabilities to compress data so that it requires less storage space. Multiple such techniques to decrease file and data size exist.

Some agencies have been maintaining records the same way for 20 years, so their workforces will need to be educated on any digital record-keeping tools adopted.

EXPLORE: Find out how backup as a service boosts data protection.

The transition to digital record keeping often necessitates a hybrid environment where two systems, the old and new, exist in tandem for a time, but it’s important to set milestones for phasing out the legacy process.

That way, an agency like the IRS won’t find itself halfway through its digital workflow and still printing out records for one of its offices that continues to manually process records.

Image by Staff Artist

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