The need for storage continues to grow at a steady pace and, as the quantity of information to be stored goes up, the need to manage storage correctly is growing too. At the same time, the increase in bandwidth has contributed to the changing nature of storage, resulting in reduced costs and ease of access to data in digital format on storage networks. However, cautions Paul Mullon, information governance executive at document and records management specialist Metrofile, companies must not be lured into sacrificing the tried and tested principles of storage.
We are seeing increasing replication of data to ensure that it is available in the right place at the right time, all the time. Decreasing storage costs are helping to make this an attainable goal. Nonetheless, organisations must be very careful of putting all their data onto the storage network just because they can - bearing in mind that physical cost is only one aspect of storage and to be led into the trap of storing everything can be a very costly mistake. While it may be tempting, this approach is contrary to storage best practice and is likely to result in increased operating costs and reduced efficiency.
Globally, current legislation requires companies to keep information for many years, with certain records having a lifespan of 20 or 30 years - or longer for insurance companies - during which time they must be retrievable. To deliver information effectively, where and when it is needed, the following recommendations should be adhered to:
* Clearly identify what needs to be stored, for how long and in what format, and then identify what can be destroyed. Implement this policy rigorously and get rid of what you do not need, including all duplicates.
* Identify what is needed for immediate access and focus on getting productivity benefits out of that information.
* Move any other information which is not required for active business processes onto cheaper media as you may never need to retrieve it.
Technology now exists to make this an efficient and fast option that can save substantial amounts of money. In this instance, electronic information is written directly to reference archive media which is stored off-site in climate controlled environments, has an electronic index associated with it that allows for easy search and retrieval, and can be digitised on-demand and delivered electronically via the Web.
Bear in mind that while hardware is clearly continuously becoming cheaper and faster, this constitutes only a small portion of the total cost of storing information. To understand the total cost of storage, you have to add the cost of software licences, databases, servers, maintenance, backups, system administration personnel and software. Add to this the cost of migrating information over time to meet the requirements of legislation, with the resultant problems of data and media degradation and technology obsolescence, and you quickly realise that adding more storage is not the answer.
The first step towards an efficient storage and information management plan is to put policies and processes in place to ensure that only necessary data gets stored. Controlling data storage in this manner reduces the overall price tag. As a rule of thumb, probably only 30% to 40% of the information held in corporate information stores - across all media - needs to be held. It is widely accepted that the balance is duplicated. With a little analysis, unnecessary copies can be deleted, reducing management costs and extending the life of your hardware.
A little more in-depth analysis could delete a further third of your data that is redundant or irrelevant - such as music or video files employees feel are critical to keep for the long term.
This means only a third of your company's original data needs to be stored, managed, backed up and made available in disaster recovery solutions - which translates to a large amount of money saved.