Jason Stamper asks Paul Brown, IBM system storage director for the UK, Ireland, Central & Southern Africa, about the latest trends in secure information management.
Q The amount of information that businesses are storing is exploding. So should they expect to be spending an ever-greater share of their IT budgets on storage?
A Yes, although IT budgets overall remain flat, the portion for storage has grown from 13% in 2002, to a 22% average in 2006. More of a focus on process, organisation, technology and governance will enable companies to be more efficient and to align that increased spending with the business value of the information.
Q We hear more and more about information lifecycle management (ILM), and its potential to save on storage costs. But is it a technology or a discipline?
A It is definitely a discipline, a strategy for running a business more wisely. ILM is comprised of the policies, processes and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost-effective IT infrastructure.
Q But can ILM really help companies to reduce their storage spending?
A ILM has been proven to reduce the dramatic rise of storage costs; reduce personnel costs associated with managing data (typically one head for every three terabytes); improves utilisation of storage assets (typically from below 40% to greater than 80%); helps companies avoid financial penalties associated with regulatory non-compliance; and reduces on-going costs of data management.
Q According to the Department for Trade and Industry, 70% of organisations go out of business after a major data loss. Why are companies still vulnerable when back-up technologies are so widely available?
A The issues go beyond technology. Many companies do not develop adequate policies to safeguard, filter and index data, or enforce these policies if they are in place. A problem frequently seen is that organisations do not thoroughly test the restore capability, as well as the back-up capability.
Q Some argue that rather than just looking at having sound back-up processes in place, the focus should be shifted to business continuity.
A Yes. In recognising that some services or products must be continuously delivered without interruption, there has been a shift to business continuity planning, to ensure that critical operations continue to be available. Organisations need to conduct threat assessments, regularly run business continuity scenarios and ensure that they have technologies and processes in place to fit this purpose.
Q There are signs that the areas of storage and security are converging. What do you think is driving this trend?
A IBM has focused on three areas of convergence: confidentiality, integrity and availability. Confidentiality protects storage against unauthorised disclosure, such as private medical records. Integrity protects against illegal modification, such as tampering with financial records. Availability protects against accidental or intentional removal of data, the electronic equivalent of illegally shredding documents.
Q We understand that so-called 'unstructured' data - such as e-mail, Microsoft Word or Power-Point files - has not been very easy to archive, query and manage in the enterprise compared to `structured' data stored in relational databases.
A More than 85% of all business information falls into this category. It is not that e-mails, documents or presentations are `unstructured' per se; they just lack being part of relational database systems that provide advanced search and query features. IBM has led a new open standard called unstructured nnformation management architecture (UIMA), that it has built into its technologies to enable such advanced search and management.