Practical Advice for Archiving Data

Jan. 9, 2015
Time and effort spent archiving data is a small investment with a big payoff for mission-critical results.

The start of the New Year is a good time to do some housecleaning. One area that we see that often gets neglected is archiving of data. As processes amass data, historians end up bulging from lack of housekeeping.

Much of the historical data collected from the plant floor is just that—history. Product has been shipped, batches are complete, yet the data is clogging up the historian and slowing everything down.

If you don’t have a policy for archiving data, now is a good time to develop and implement a practical and permanent solution. Here are a few items to consider:

  1. Does your process or industry demand regulatory compliance or have specific regulations or best practices that must be followed? If so, this is paramount.
  2. Inactive data should be archived and moved to secure storage. Storage methods will vary from company to company and process to process. When considering cloud-based storage, verify the location of servers and storage. Often storage is in other countries. Is this a problem? Can the data be easily retrieved? Is it easily recognizable and identifiable?
  3. Test the archiving methods and procedures. Can the data be retrieved and restored? Is it complete? Document your testing methods.
  4. After archiving and testing the data, they should be deleted from active applications. Once deleted, verify that the data deletion process has not caused errors in the existing applications and dashboards.

The cost of archiving and storage of historical data are minimal to the organization, but there are several benefits:

  • Storage costs of data are greatly reduced. Only relevant data gets archived and for a defined time period.
  • By being selective, hardware and support costs are reduced significantly.
  • Archived data that has been removed or deleted does not impact the performance of running applications, reports, etc., leading to smoother business and production operations.
  • Data is retrieved faster. The network and applications perform better since only relevant data exists and is populating the database.

Data archiving protects the organization’s investment in the data collection applications and secures historical data. The cost to do this is relatively low, yet can be mission critical. Whatever method or procedures are chosen, this should be re-evaluated annually as processes and technology changes.

Stephen Blank is CEO of Loman Controls Inc., a Certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Loman Controls’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange by CSIA.

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