Saturday, April 21, 2007

Records Management

In many industries - especially financial services - there are regulatory requirements to store data for various time periods. Examples include customer records, transaction records, financial statements, and even emails.

This adds up to a huge administrative challenge. Millions of records are created by many different systems - each has to be categorized, stored, regularly reviewed, available to retrieve at very short notice, then deleted as soon as the time period is up. Of course, in the meantime the legal definitions and time periods are regularly changed. And if you get it wrong, you're in deep trouble with regulators and establish a reputation in the press for bad management.

Part of the issue is that records exist in so many places - paper, database tables, email archives, file shares, mainframe storage. Every record should be tracked and tagged with a category, a creation date, an owner, and an expiry date.

Records Management on the web
Of course, a growing proportion of these records are now online - and this presents huge advantages:

  • The URI: finally, a universal way to locate records.
  • HTTP: a simple technique for transferring records, including standard descriptive headers
  • Search Engines: sophisticated technology for crawling for records and for retrieving them
  • HTML: a text format for records that can be quickly scanned and analysed, including meta tags
And of course, the web includes a cacheing system to manage expiry dates on every record.

There are two basic conclusions.

Firstly, you can expect Records Management Systems to become more and more like search engines - crawling the intranet for records, analysing them, categorising them, and flagging them when their expiry date is past.

And secondly, the best way to implement a records management solution is to migrate systems to the web - the basics are all built in!

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