The Archive Continuum Part 1: What is an Archive?

In the healthcare technology space, ask someone what “archive” means, and depending on who’s using the term and what their intended use case may be, you’ll get a different answer from nearly everyone. The very definition of the word “archive” is fluid – and as a result, exists on a continuum.

Let’s agree, at least for this blog, that data archiving refers to the relocation of legacy data from various, often disparate applications to a repository for long-term retention and storage. Of course, there are nuances with this definition, too, as there may be varying needs to access the legacy data, and each access option requires different technology, which may be offered at various costs. And, while data archiving may mean one thing to one healthcare professional, it will mean something else to another.

Sigh. So much for not adding even more complexity to this already complex discussion.

One word, so many meanings

To some, an archive simply refers to the application used to manage the migration and storage of legacy data. A software-centric definition that overlooks the other, key components central to the archival process. Others see an archive as the physical media used to store and safeguard data. In this case, the term could refer to a couple of different things, all hardware-related: Tape, which offers a low-cost solution with limited accessibility; On-site hard-disk bays, which require power and cooling considerations; Or cloud storage, a popular option because of its ability to scale easily over time as needs change. Still others may view an archive as a blend of these definitions, referring to the software and hardware used to manage, store, and access the legacy data within your systems.

From this, it’s easy to appreciate that “archive” is a fluid definition that changes from person to person, and from use case to use case rather than a single, static concept. “Archive” exists on a continuum, and one that spans the entire data archiving space as the term ultimately allows us to describe various concepts and use-cases so that we can navigate the complex regulatory and compliance rules that must be followed.

In future installments of this series, we break this “definition continuum” into three use cases and explore how each impacts your organization:

  • Simple cold-storage solutions where data is simply held for compliance and regulatory requirements

  • Active data archiving solutions that are one small, but crucial step below an active data access system (i.e., an EMR)

  • Those use cases that fall somewhere in between these two extremes that may combine various pieces-parts of each.

What is a data archive

Stay tuned!


Dr. Shelly Disser   VP, Solution Delivery & Client Advocacy

Dr. Shelly Disser
VP, Solution Delivery & Client Advocacy

About the Author:

Dr. Shelly Disser began developing strategies, methodologies and processes to enable health enterprises to efficiently archive, manage and activate legacy data more than 20 years ago. She founded one of the first data archiving companies for the health sector, competing solely with MediQuant. Shelly led the company for 15 years, selling it in 2014 to develop her own consulting firm for healthcare services. In 2017, Shelly joined her old competitor MediQuant to help lead the company supporting client advocacy. Today, this industry leader is vice president of solution delivery – offering her expertise in management, data strategy and analysis.