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Information Lifecycle Management: It’s All about the Data!

Businesses, both large and small, are facing an Information Technology (IT) dilemma. External business requirements drive increasing IT requirements, which drive increasing IT system growth and complexity, resulting in increasing IT infrastructure and management costs.  This cycle usually results in reactive IT spending. Why?  It’s because businesses need the information, or data, that IT systems exist to leverage. All of those servers, laptops and PCs, software applications, voice and data circuits, switches and routers, printers and copiers that make up an IT system, (and their associated costs) exist to create, store, access, share, and protect your data. The data is the only element in this system that has any real business value. Do you know what your data is worth?

 

Multiple industry studies have concluded that an average business can expect the amount of data stored and managed in their IT systems to double every 18-24 months. They also conclude that the majority of the growth is “unstructured data”.  Unstructured data, those emails, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, image files, etc are very difficult to manage. All you have to do is look at your email box to understand how quickly the amount of data you are storing grows.

 

Consider this typical scenario: A co-worker contacts you via email and requests a copy of a document you have been working on. It’s a 5 Megabyte (Mb) file, stored on your hard drive. You attach a copy of the document to your email response, and send it on. A copy of the email, with the attachment, appears in your Outlook Sent Items folder. The email transits the Microsoft Exchange system, and a copy, with attachment, now resides on the Exchange server. The email is delivered to your co-worker’s inbox, who opens the attachment, and saves a copy to her hard drive. She replies to your email to thank you, and she cc’s both your respective bosses. How many copies of the same 5 Mb file are now stored on the company’s IT system?  Your company also backs up its data, including the data on PC hard drives, as well as the email server. Now there are 16 total copies of the same 5 Mb file stored on the system. Consider how many times this scenario might happen in the course of an average workday, and you begin to appreciate why your data is growing so quickly. You can also begin appreciate why your company’s IT costs are rising.  So how do you address this challenge? You develop and implement an Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) policy.

 

ILM begins with determining how valuable a piece data is to your business. Is the data “business critical” or just “business useful”?  Next, we consider how the data is created, stored, accessed, shared, and protected. How long after creation does business critical data remain such, before becoming business useful or obsolete and valueless?  This will determine how we store the data. Is the data stored on your PC hard drive, “live” on a server, or archived to low-cost disk, tape or flash storage device?  Once we know where the data is to be stored, we can determine how it is to be accessed during the various stages of its lifecycle. We also consider how to share this data. Do we email documents around, use file transfer protocol (ftp) servers, load items to shared network folders or pass around thumb drives? Lastly, we determine how to protect the data. Is it backed up? How many copies are backed up? Do we back it up off-site or on-site? Who has access to the data? In the event of a loss, how quickly can we restore it? If we can’t restore it, what is the business impact?  How do we protect the data from unauthorized access, and in the event of a breach, what is the exposure, risk, or liability the company will face? Are there any special regulatory requirements for the data?

 

Rather than expend the time, energy, and resources implementing ILM, many companies choose to do nothing, or they adopt a policy of “store everything, forever”. In the former case, you are inviting a catastrophic data loss that may cause your company to fail or be sued, and in the latter case, your IT budget will explode. What may seem like a small manageable problem today, will grow into a huge problem tomorrow. Remember, data doubles every 18 months.

 

 

Steven Thomas is the Senior Sales Engineer and Lead Consultant for Washington Square Associates. His email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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