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What is decommissioning?

Decommissioning is a process by which a business application, drive or system is removed from use in an organisation.

    Applications, drives or systems are decommissioned when they are:

    • Replaced by a newer product
    • Obsolete - they no longer support the business process or the technology is no longer supported
    • Moved to another agency


    Recordkeeping requirements when decommisioning

    Decommissioning applications or systems requires:

    • Appraisal - understanding the records in the application or system
    • Migration - extracting and transferring the records (if possible)
    • Ongoing management - if the records cannot be extracted and migrated, they should be adequately managed by the agency
    • Disposal – destruction of copies and time-expired temporary records that remain on the decommissioned system

    See the step-by-step below for further guidance on decommissioning.

    1. STEP 1 - Appraise

      The first thing that needs to be done is to get an understanding of what records are in the system or application to be decommissioned.

      The people who created or who manage the functions related to them are often the best sources of information when it comes to understanding what the records are about. 

      If the appraisal has already been done and retention periods have been assigned, all you need do is determine which ones will need the most attention. Records that are high value or high risk will need to be managed carefully to ensure they remain useable. 

      Conducting appraisal of the records involves understanding what the records are and how they relate to the functions and activities of the agency. Records can only be lawfully destroyed or transferred out of the custody of an agency when they have been properly sentenced using the relevant Retention and Disposal Authority (RDA).

      STEP 2 - Migrate

      After finishing the appraisal and identifying which records are high value high risk, the next thing is to determine which ones will need to be extracted and migrated so they can continue to be used and managed.

      Moving from one system to another involves navigating through several major risks to records and information. These include data loss, retaining contextual links, maintaining access to full and accurate records and information, and preventing premature disposal.

      Migration tools can be used in some instances to assist with the process. For example, they can provide a migration log, flag potential issues, and report on what was migrated. Comparison reports of what was migrated when compared with what was in the decommissioned system aid with identifying missing content.

      Where the decommissioned system is retained as a storage database, the capability to migrate the records and associated data into a new system must also be maintained.

      PROV recommend using actively managed media when storing non-migrated digital records to ensure that records continue to be searchable, retrievable and accessible for the duration of their retention periods. Using non-searchable or unmanaged media, such as backup tapes for the storage and recovery of non-migrated records can be expensive and take a long time to locate and retrieve records.

      If possible, the records should be migrated to a system or drive that is being actively managed as the platform, software and other elements necessary for the records to remain readable will more likely be supported in an actively managed environment.

      Records that have been sentenced as permanent and are no longer required by the business should be transferred to PROV.

      Developing a migration strategy for the records will enable key requirements (including both technical and recordkeeping) to be identified and addressed. The strategy should include an action plan that identifies the records being transferred, including their metadata, where the records are to be migrated to, and how the metadata will be mapped to that used by the new drive or system.

      STEP 3 - Manage

      If the records cannot be extracted from the system or drive then it will need to be actively managed for as long as the records are needed.

      A management plan should be developed outlining how the system or drive will be managed to ensure the records remain readable and useable for the duration of their retention periods.

      Records that do not need to be retained for very long or that are of low value and low risk may remain on the drive or system after it has been switched off. Even so, a management plan for the system or drive should be developed so the records can be managed offline for as long as needed. This may involve conducting a regular series of checks of samples of records (using a consistent and documented sampling method) to identify signs of corruption or other risk to the records so they may be mitigated while the records remain required.

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