Surprising as it may seem, a fair percentage of SAP’s 24,000 worldwide
users are unaware of the benefits and, more importantly, the necessity
of archiving SAP data and business documents. All too often, in the intense
and focused exercise of installing enterprise-wide SAP functionality,
scant attention is paid to the fact that the amount of data stored in
R/3 will eventually exceed certain technical and organizational limits.
How quickly thresholds for real-time access to active data are reached
depends on company size and transaction volume, but be sure of this: these
limits will be reached. And despite the rapidly expanding capacity of
hard drives and online storage systems, the reality is that you can’t
simply keep adding disk space forever.
As any database administrator will tell
you, there are limitations on table and index sizes which, once breached,
can cause noticeable degradation of performance of any real-time database
system, including R/3. Online response time drops, record deletions take
longer, and database backups and restores (infrequent, of course!) become
intolerably sluggish. Suddenly, your employees — particularly those who
are strictly concerned about how the system affects their ability to do
their work — are throwing pencils at their screens and pointing fingers
at the IT department.
Avoiding this scenario is simple. It’s
just a matter of understanding the benefits of archiving, both technical
and functional, and then taking advantage of the many tools available
for the job.
R/3’s Built-In Archiving Functionality
The good news is that the standard SAP system includes a variety of
ways to solve the problem of “too much data.” Archiving capabilities are
provided across all modules by one of two built-in, centralized components:
ArchiveLink (or the newer ContentServer) and SAP ADK (Archiving Development
In many cases, however, users are either
unaware of these components or incorrectly assume that implementing the
embedded R/3 archiving functionality requires expert programming knowledge.
The reality is, using SAP R/3’s archiving tools is simple and straightforward.
Two Types of Archiving
Before detailing the benefits and standard elements of SAP archiving,
let’s take a moment to clarify terminology. Archiving is a general term
that SAP R/3 users should immediately separate into two distinct categories:
data archiving and business document archiving.
- Data archiving: Basically, all data that you enter or edit
using online R/3 screen transactions resides in the R/3 database. This
data may have originated from a number of sources: an inbound paper
document, an automatic calculation within R/3, a barcode scan, or a
manual keyboard input, among others. As data enters the database, it
is considered “active,” while it is still being processed in support
of business operations. At some point, the data becomes “aged,” and
should be taken from the active database and stored elsewhere. In most
cases, archived data should be accessible for a defined period of time
before being completely deleted.
- Business document archiving: Traditionally, this is what people
think of when they hear the word “archiving,” because they are familiar
with the filing and management of paper documents. SAP R/3 handles the
conversion of inbound paper documents into electronic data either through
manual entry of the information on the form, or through an automated
scanning process, usually handled through third-party Complementary
Software Provider (CSP) solutions. R/3 also generates outbound paper
documents using data from its database, including numerous forms, reports,
and print lists. All these paper documents can be archived in electronic
format to help reduce the cost of managing paper records.
R/3 Archiving Components
As mentioned earlier, R/3 contains standard components that support data
and business document archiving. In order to implement basic R/3 system
archiving, users interact with SAP’s Archive Development Kit (ADK). Additional
tools, in the form of the Data Retention Tool (DART) and the Archive Information
System (AS), round out the standard SAP archiving functionality.
Archive Development Kit (ADK)
In some ways, the name for this functional interface is misleading because
many people interpret “development kit” as something that requires programming
knowledge and technical savvy. In fact, the SAP Archive Development Kit
is not a programming environment. It comes ready to configure and can
easily be used to extend the basic functionality of SAP archiving. In
order to use any of the other archiving tools, you must interact with
Essentially, the ADK creates archive files
by utilizing data objects. These data objects enable different organizational
views of R/3 database table contents. In other words, data can be logically
extracted from various database tables and combined into a meaningful
file of historical data. These files are then stored outside the R/3 database
within the file system of your server. It is then your obligation to back
up these archive files to support long-term storage and retrieval requirements.
Again, terminology is important. SAP R/3 “archive files” are a special
type of R/3 file that resides outside the R/3 database.
The ADK also provides hooks into the standard
SAP R/3 system. These hooks allow third-party CSPs to communicate through
R/3 ArchiveLink to extend built-in R/3 archiving functionality. Note that
ArchiveLink was enhanced and updated by SAP with Version 4.5, and is now
called ContentServer. While ContentServer uses a different data communication
method to work with external solutions, it provides the same basic functionality
The Benefits of Archiving
There are several important reasons to regularly archive both R/3
data and R/3-related business documents: performance, cost savings,
legal requirements, and streamlining of business processes.
As mentioned earlier, the long-term accumulation of data in the
online, real-time R/3 database will ultimately reach a point where
system response time begins to deteriorate. Data archiving (along
with behind-the-scenes tuning from your friendly database administrator)
helps keep the online database streamlined and responsive, which
means that your business can keep pace with daily business activities.
Both data and business document archiving can contribute to substantial
reductions in operating expenses. In the case of data archiving,
maintaining control over the size of the online database can help
avoid unnecessary investment in disk capacity. A hidden cost savings
comes from reduced downtime during database backups, database recoveries,
and conversion and upgrade efforts. For example, as global companies
convert from individual currencies to support the Euro, the database
must be down for a period of time in order to update all records,
deal with changes to database field sizes, etc. The more “aged”
records that can be removed from the database via archiving, the
less downtime will be incurred during the conversion. Major savings
can be gained by minimizing paper management. By converting inbound,
outbound, and print documents to electronic images, many paper management
inefficiencies can be eliminated: no duplication of files, no lost
documents, reduction of filing space, reduced staff, improved document
retrieval speed, etc. According to many third-party optical archiving
partners, the cost of an optical data and business document archiving
add-on can be cost-justified even if it is only used for outbound
documents. Simply by implementing an outbound optical archiving
solution, the company is positioned to begin using both inbound
document archiving and optical data archiving when it is ready.
Government regulations often require the retention of operational,
financial, and business documents and data for long periods of time.
While paper documents have served this purpose for years, response
times and accuracy in audits and other legal proceedings can be
greatly improved through electronic archiving, and result in further
Streamlining of Business Processes
Archiving, in particular, business document archiving, can be
the cornerstone of efforts to improve workflow efficiency. Numerous
companies can attest to the enormous benefits gained from converting
paper documents into scanned images. From improved security to the
easy search-and-retrieval of documents that are no longer active,
archiving can drive significant, positive improvements in day-to-day
Data Retention Tool (DART)
The Data Retention Tool, downloadable from SAPNet, is an add-on for
older versions of SAP R/3. For later versions, beginning with Release
4.5, DART is included in the standard R/3 system. DART was developed jointly
over a two-year period by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and ASUG
(Americas’ SAP Users’ Group). Its express purpose is to improve the ability
of companies to perform IRS-compliant retrievals of archived information.
DART uses a separate query-and-retrieval interface within the SAP GUI
to extract IRS-related data directly from the archive files created by
It is important to remember that the ADK
archive files reside on your server’s file system. These files contain
historical operational and financial data, and your IT department must
arrange to preserve these files for whatever long-term retention period
is required. Often, this means backing up the files to tape. Optical jukebox
storage of archive files and business documents is often an alternative
or adjunct to tape backup.
Archive Information System (AS)
This SAP archiving component provides enhanced retrieval capabilities
against previously archived data (not business documents). Again, archive
files created by the ADK are the source of the information. SAP’s AS requires
that the archive files be loaded into new tables within the database.
In this approach, AS requires some detailed, technical knowledge of the
database table structure and field layouts, because the current database
structure may not be identical to what existed when the archive file was
originally created. Because of this requirement, AS is R/3’s least-used
archiving component. The good news is that SAP is working to improve the
AS function to make it easier to use.
Clearly, SAP R/3 includes various options for getting your archiving
function up and running. Through ArchiveLink and ContentServer, SAP also
makes it possible for CSPs to extend archiving beyond the basics.
Many SAP R/3 users have found that supplementing
standard R/3 archive functionality with an integrated optical archiving
solution is beneficial and extremely cost-effective. These solutions are
offered by a number of third-party CSPs. Typically, these products provide,
to varying degrees, the capability to:
- Scan paper documents
- Route them electronically
- Store the images on write-once optical media (which means the document
cannot be altered)
- Search and retrieve archived items quickly
Optical archiving also supports the long-term
storage and searching of print lists and reports, which can be a tremendous
time saver for many organizations.
Business Workflow to Streamline Business Processes
Most optical archiving solutions provide some level of integration and
support for SAP’s Business Workflow functionality. Business Workflow allows
users to define and automate the flow of paper and documents through their
business. There are two primary scenarios for using optical archiving,
“early” and “late,” both of which are supported within a standard R/3
Users who are just getting started with
optical archiving will find that late archiving is easy to implement.
The main reason is that late archiving literally requires no changes to
business processes. The company processes paper documents and data as
it normally does, then adds a concluding step of scanning the paper into
an electronic format for permanent storage. This eliminates the normal,
inefficient filing of paper in cabinets, or of boxing reams of paper for
shipping to a long-term storage facility. In addition to the obvious benefits
of reduced paper filing time, late archiving provides substantially improved
retrieval time. It also makes the company more comfortable with electronic
archiving in preparation for a possible move to early archiving.
Companies looking to substantially improve
their operations and streamline their business processes will implement
the early archiving scenario. Here, documents are converted to electronic
images and files before normal processing begins. This enables many additional
benefits, such as automated identification and routing of documents, and
elimination of multiple paper copies. In fact, many companies find that
implementing an early archive scenario allows them to thoroughly review
and revamp their existing business workflow and lower the costs of conducting
SAP R/3 Archiving: Time to Get Started
Archiving is an absolutely essential element of a complete and efficient
implementation of SAP R/3. Experience has shown that the biggest drawbacks
to establishing an effective archiving capability is that users are relatively
unfamiliar with the existing R/3 archiving tools and functions or they
perceive that archiving is too complex. Archiving is not something to
fear, but something to embrace. If you want to keep key people happy —
accountants, auditors, database administrators, and end users — then take
the time to learn more about archiving. With just a little effort, you
can help your company get the most out of SAP R/3 and save a tremendous
amount of money along the way.
Ralf Klinkhammer has more than 12 years of systems consulting and
implementation experience in the data archiving and imaging systems markets.
Since 1995, he has served as the Project Manager and co-developer of EASY-LINK
for R/3, the SAP ArchiveLink interface from EASY SOFTWARE. Mr. Klinkhammer
was directly responsible for the creation of the EASY SOFTWARE Channel
for ArchiveLink consulting services practices and has been directly involved
in the successful implementation of more than 50 SAP ArchiveLink projects.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
EASY SOFTWARE is a leading provider of full-text data archiving and
document management solutions with more than 5,500 corporate customers
and 400 partners worldwide. All EASYWARE modules are interface-certified
by SAP and support SAP security, Business Workflow, and mySAP.com. EASYWARE
solutions are easily implemented and extremely cost-effective. For more
information, visit www.easy-software.net.