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Why might you need Information Lifecycle Management?

In Macro 4’s recent survey of UK SAP customers, 56 per cent of the sample agreed that mounting regulatory pressures surrounding the way data is stored and managed was a key driver for the adoption of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) strategies by users of SAP applications. 45 per cent said escalating litigation (and the need to avoid the high costs involved in making data available in legal cases) was also a driver.

But if you’re already archiving (or considering archiving) your SAP data and documents to maintain good system performance, streamline backups and control storage costs, you might be wondering how ILM differs from ‘standard’ archiving – and whether you need it.

ILM involves managing information throughout its lifetime in order to ensure key data stays accessible, while at the same time optimizing costs and addressing data compliance. That may sound a lot like archiving and, in fact, data archiving is one of the ‘pillars’ of ILM from SAP, termed the SAP Netweaver® Information Lifecycle Management component. However, as I will explain in further detail below, ILM offers much more than archiving alone. It incorporates a number of additional capabilities that allow you to set retention periods more easily, automatically destroy information at end of life and quickly locate and manage all information related to specific legal cases.

These capabilities are of particular value to organizations operating in highly regulated industries that need to demonstrate legal compliance in order to avoid financial penalties. In the words of SAP: “The cost of compliance can be high but non-compliance is even more costly”, as high profile lawsuits over the last decade have amply demonstrated. ILM reduces the risk of non-compliance by automating an organization’s retention strategy, so nothing is left to chance. At the same time, automation makes compliance simpler, less time-consuming and less costly to achieve.

Increasing control over your data

So let us look at some specific ways that ILM helps you to achieve compliance. Compared with the usual way of archiving SAP data and documents (described in my earlier Why bother to archive SAP data?  (Part 1)) archiving using SAP Netweaver Information Lifecycle Management provides extra functionality that gives you even more control. This includes allowing you to implement policies that automatically manage how specific data is stored and managed during different periods of its lifetime. It means you can set retention periods for data, and automatically destroy it at the end of its useful life.

With ILM you can define business rules that automatically move data into an archive on lower cost storage when it reaches a certain age – i.e. when it is likely to be accessed less frequently – and then delete it from the archive when it is no longer required. You could also specify that certain data is automatically archived and stored on WORM (write once read many) storage media because it has to be maintained in a ‘tamper proof’ format for compliance purposes. 

ILM plays a very important role in compliance because it ensures that you adhere to regulations that specify how long you are allowed to store certain information (e.g. consumer data) before it must be legally destroyed.

In this context it is important to be clear about the difference between ‘deletion’ and ‘destruction’. To be compliant it is not enough to simply delete a data record from the live system once it reaches its expiration date. All references to that data throughout the SAP installation must also be destroyed, so that there is no trace of its existence. So, for example, destruction of all information for a given customer would involve deleting all records from the live SAP database, plus any records and indexes in the archive, any related documents and so on. ILM enables you to achieve this level of control.

Being able to define retention and deletion policies is also important for organizations that are archiving large volumes of data and want to minimize the size and cost of the overall archive, as data is immediately removed when no longer needed.  

Legal Case Management

One of the other ILM capabilities that SAP has introduced is Legal Case Management. This has two important aspects. Firstly, a legal hold facility enables organizations to preserve records related to a current legal case by ringfencing the records and preventing any changes to them during the course of the legal action. Secondly, automated e-discovery makes it easier to locate and collate data and documents required for a specific legal case. Both of these features enable organizations to reduce the cost and complexity involved in finding and preserving electronic evidence.

Free up resources from legacy SAP installations

To help organizations reduce costs, the SAP Netweaver Information Lifecycle Management software includes functionality to help decommission or consolidate legacy SAP installations. If you are running multiple legacy systems or want to consolidate several SAP installations, you can transfer a snapshot of the legacy data to the ILM retention warehouse which is under the control of the policies specified in SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management. You can continue to use the data for reporting purposes from your current SAP applications, allowing you to free up resources by switching off the legacy systems. 

So for organizations who need addition control over their data and want to address specific challenges such as compliance or decommissioning multiple systems, SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management holds very real benefits. And if you are already archiving and want the additional benefits, it is possible to transition seamlessly to ILM.

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