Unprecedented database growth and the need to maintain historical data to meet regulatory requirements are driving information life-cycle management, a comprehensive strategy for managing data from the time it is acquired until it can be deleted.\nActive archiving software lets companies archive rarely accessed data from complex relational databases and manage the data efficiently. This database archiving process saves archived data, business context data and metadata to an archive file, which remains referentially intact. The files can be stored easily on the most convenient and cost-effective storage medium. For example, administrators can choose to place them online in an archive database, near-line on a file server, offline on optical devices, tape or other long-term storage.\nOnce archived, the data safely can be removed from application databases to improve the performance and availability of critical systems. When the data is needed again, administrators and end users can easily access the archived data and selectively restore it on demand.\nActive archiving software identifies the subsets of data to archive based on user-defined specifications such as database table names, selection criteria, archive policies and archive index requirements that allow for fast retrieval. Specifications also include user-selected relationships to define the traversal path for archiving data.\nArchive processing begins with the first table the user specifies in the traversal path. Data from related tables are processed next based on selected relationships and the logical keys of the data retrieved from the first table.\nAs part of the archiving process, the metadata, which includes database and table definitions, indexes and relationships, is extracted and stored by the archiving software with the archived data. This metadata provides the basis for maintaining the referential integrity of archived data and provides the foundation for accessing archived data at any time. The result is a self-contained, transportable archive file that ensures future access to archived data.\nAdministrators can remove data from the production database immediately after the data has been safely written to the archive file, or they can choose to review the archive file before removing data from the production database. Data is deleted selectively from the production database, leaving all other data intact.\nOnce data has been archived, subsequent access to it is fast and simple. Active archiving software supports multiple methods for accessing archived data, including capabilities for browsing, exporting and restoring it, and generating reports.\nAdministrators and users can restore archived data selectively. For example, patient-support professionals at a health insurance company can instantly retrieve information about a patient's insurance claims going back five years, using the company's insurance application interface. The restore operation includes processing the saved metadata followed by the restore criteria. The restore process also lets users verify and re-create the necessary object or objects at a destination if they do not exist.\nActive archiving software can be implemented across industries to manage database growth, store data cost-effectively and keep archived data accessible on demand. For example, financial-services applications collect volumes of customer data that can affect application performance. Selectively archiving data based on business rules (such as data that is more than two years old) can free processing capacity and improve response time. Business analysts would have on-demand access to archived data seamlessly through their financial applications and could restore data as needed.\nLee is vice president of product marketing at Princeton Softech. He can be reached at email@example.com.