Everyone has a friend or neighbor whose house is filled with countless items that are of unknown value, but are still of some vague importance to them. We are all guilty of keeping items that we’re not sure if they’ll ever be used…. But due to their unknown future value, we just can’t seem to throw them out. Psychologists hypothesize there is even an emotional drag on people that surround themselves with clutter. One can also understand the apprehension people might have around clearing out this clutter. But when it comes to digital data storage, suddenly we are all pack rats.
After working in the IT industry for three decades, I can say that there is a lot of corporate data storage out there that looks exactly the same as these cluttered houses. Gigabytes, sometimes even terabytes of old data with no determined value, an uncertain future, and no discernible organization. It is the digital equivalent of the television show “Hoarders.”
Given the decreasing cost of data storage, the trend in the IT industry has been “Hey, don’t worry… we’ll just add more.” It is very difficult to tell senior-level staff that they need to clean up their mailbox or their data. Generally, they insist that they need all the items and that we need to increase their data storage quotas. In fact, there seems to be the general psychosis that surrounds this. Apparently you are either OCD or a slob when it comes to making your mailbox tidy or your file organization usable; there appears to be no middle ground. Imagine how much time is wasted looking for the right file, the right attachment, or the right piece of mail. Probably enough FTE hours to power a small nation-state.
Just piling on additional storage arrays, complex SANS, increasing the amount of data storage, and matching backup systems gets out of control and accelerates the cost of IT ownership. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that most of the time this data only comes back to be a liability. Directory after directory and mailbox after mailbox filled with data of all sorts, strewn all over your server hierarchy, not only leads to legal liability but also opens the door to data loss from both corporate espionage and hackers.
Draining the corporate data lake and creating a meaningful data hierarchy are often contentious and difficult tasks. But they are necessary tasks that need to be done, and done well.
So, what is the secret to reduce this tangled mass of risky data and in exchange develop smart, streamlined data storage?
A well-designed IT architecture, matched with good data retention policies developed through a long-term strategic road-map, is the surest way to reduce corporate liability and risk, decrease costs and increase the ease at which employees can gain access to their data.
It is an ambitious task to dive into all of this mess and dig out the data that your organization needs to retain. The good news is that a well drafted and executed strategic road-map can help ease the difficulty and help you gain control over your private data.