WORM Systems Aid Compliance

WORM systems answer the data protection requirements of the SEC and HIPAA legislation.

Thanks to numerous Wall Street scandals and tighter regulations across a number of industries, IT managers are being forced to account for, preserve and, on demand, restore data. This has created a big market for WORM storage systems.

For financial services companies, the Securities and Exchange Commissions SEC Rule 240.17a-4(f) created a requirement forcing companies to store data (e-mail and business records) on nonrewritable and nonerasable media. SEC Rule 240.17a-4(f) also requires that duplicate storage media keep track of the time and date of each data item for the required retention period.

Many people initially took the rule to mean that optical WORM storage was required, but in May, the SEC said that any electronic storage system could be used, provided that it meets the nonrewritable and nonerasable requirements.

As a result of this clarification, hard-drive-based WORM storage systems such as EMC Corp.s Centera content- addressed storage system and Network Appliance Inc.s SnapLock (see review), which use software to maintain integrity, became acceptable devices for meeting the SEC requirements.

WORM technology can also help organizations come into compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). For example, according to HIPAA guidelines, patient records must be kept in secure data repositories and retained for two years after a patients death. Although HIPAA does not specify any particular technology for doing this, the acts security requirements (preventing records from being altered) and mandated retention periods suggest that WORM storage be used to protect records.

During the past year, a number of WORM storage systems have emerged that will help meet the needs of IT managers challenged with meeting any number of business and regulatory requirements.

Optical storage, a mature technology with which many organizations are familiar, remains the most popular WORM solution. CDs and DVDs live in the low end to midrange of the optical storage market, with a host of available library devices to take care of disk management.

Magneto-optical disks are more expensive than DVD or CD media, but they have a higher level of reliability, which is why they are often found in government agencies.

Hard-drive-based storage systems such as EMCs and Network Appliances provide far better write performance when compared with optical storage, as well as the ability to restore data quickly.

Another option IT managers should consider is WORM tape. On the high end, Storage Technology Corp.s VolSafe storage system gives WORM capabilities to StorageTeks enterprise-class T9840B tape drives.

A combination of drive-level microcode together with proprietary VolSafe media provides the means to prevent accidental erasures or overwrites. VolSafe cartridges range in price from $179 to $199 each.

WORM tape makes sense for companies that have to archive a large amount of data because the capacity per WORM tape is much larger than capacity per disk in the optical storage world. Tape is also a proven technology for long-term storage.

For small and midsize companies, Sony Electronics Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc. have teamed up to create a WORM-enabled Advanced Intelligent Tape auto-loader bundled with CA ARCserve Backup software. (The bundle is called StoreStation System and is available from Sony.) The kit will cost $4,500 and provide 2 to 4 terabytes of compressed storage capacity.

StoreStation will be a good choice for small and midsize companies that are price-sensitive and dont necessarily need fast access to archived data.