The very definition of “archive” varies greatly. So much so, that in the first post in this series, we proposed that archives exist on a continuum depending on the data structure and level of access required. On one end, you’ll find archives with low-to-no functionality. On the other end, more sophisticated active archiving solutions provide considerably more access and much higher functionality.

Let’s start by exploring those “cold storage” archives that simply store data in a repository for compliance/legal reasons.

Put your data on ice

Cold storage means exactly what it sounds like: All the data is in an offline database, in a read-only state. It isn’t possible to add or edit the existing records. In fact, your data may not even be stored in a way that lends itself to a user interface.
In order to turn cold storage data into information, the database must be queried by SQL or another tool. And while query-level access to the data complies with data retention policies, this approach is very limiting for users who need frequent access to data and reports.
Another limitation of a cold storage archive is the minimal (if any) user interface. For a cold storage archive, the role of the UI is merely to display the data pulled by a query – and even then, the types of data this spartan interface can effectively display is limited to documents, categorized by type. This provides clinicians with very limited access to the data, and no access for HIM or ROI purposes.
Again, in a cold storage use case, the data access needs are limited in both scope and frequency and we can’t add or manipulate data within the database. The latter limitation means that financial numbers must be final and static. With a cold storage archive, there’s no ability to work down accounts receivable because there’s no way to modify accounts. Sure, a user may be able to review transaction histories or look at notes, but they won’t be able to post anything or add to the existing information.
So, with all these limitations, why would an organization choose to put its data on ice? Well, there are a number of use cases – but each one depends on the need for data access.

When considering cold storage archives for your organization, ask how frequently your users will need access to the data that will be in it.

If the answer is not often (if ever) and you can only see users pulling information for the occasional compliance review or ad hoc report, this low-end archive option may serve your needs well.
However, if your use cases require more access and functionality, you’ll want to follow this blog series as we’ll continue to explore other types of archives, with varying functionality, and share a few considerations for each that will help you decide the right path for your data.
Stay tuned!

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.