Archiving data from a third normal form database is always a trick: the relationships between entities are complex and at times even circular. Sometimes people use the word “archive” to mean different things. The need to archive usually has one or more drivers, so you should always ask yourself why you need to archive data.

Typical answers are:

  • Perform backup/archive of all data
  • Improve application speed/responsiveness
  • Remove old data from the view of certain users
  • Remove data from the database due to legal culpability
  • Split data because of the sale of a business unit
  • Retirement of the LIMS

For the purpose of this post, we will discuss options specifically related to archiving data from a retired LIMS. Although LabVantage does not offer any out-of-the-box solutions for retiring a LIMS system, requiring access to data from a retired LIMS system can be handled in several ways. I have seen each of the following employed to meet this need.

Data migration will move the data from the retired system into the current system. This is an optimal solution, but can be technically challenging. Additionally, if the data in the system is truly unnecessary, it may only serve to slow the new system and/or take up disk space. On the positive side, it allows the new system to utilize the historic data for purposes of data trending/analysis, business intelligence analysis of operational efficiency over time, historic data to conform to new reporting standards, etc.

Create PDFs of all historic data before retirement. Using this method, all approved data gets exported and can be made available either on paper or archived electronically. On the negative side, the source data is not entirely available for review (for example, a history of all audited changes may not be available), the original testing templates are no longer available from which to re-produce original testing, data is no longer available for trending, etc.

“Closet” the retired system in whole. I once was shown a closet where a lab had literally “mothballed” an entire server, on which their retired LIMS was installed. The good news is that the modern equivalent is much more reasonable (virtualize the servers and store them electronically in the cloud – either running or shut down), allows for complete access to retired data, etc. On the negative side, the software on that system will age, meaning that licenses may expire and the expertise to get it up and running again easily will diminish over time.

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to validate your approach and reach out to different departments to ensure you will have the data you will need in the future.

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