Syncsort have reported this month that “Failure to manage data effectively is keeping organizations from reaching strategic business objectives”. No great news there then. Much the same as the undesired effect a lack of organisation would have on reaching strategic life objectives. Trying to imagine the logistics of running our week to week family life without the effective management of the family calendar is the comparison that springs to mind for me.

Anyway, back to business. Businesses are frustrated by the cost of ownership and by the constant need for IT staff to fine-tune data integration tools. And things are only going to get more challenging as the “big data explosion” takes hold. The digital universe is expected to increase to 35 trillion gigabytes by 2020, or well over 40 times the current level.  Businesses of all sizes are experiencing more rapid data growth than ever before and there is no sign that storage growth will slow down some time soon. It’s this exponential growth that is causing IT departments to re-evaluate their practices and policies….fast. In many cases that re-evaluation results in an offloading or outsourcing of data storage to third parties. Research from Gartner suggests that businesses will struggle to keep up with the ever increasing demand for data archiving as the scale of firms’ assets grows.

From a data centre operators perspective it’s not just the obvious issues of physical space, security and hardware that are focusing the mind. It is estimated that storage accounts for 26% of the overall data centre power budget so unsurprisingly ‘doing more with less’ is the common mantra. With the average company’s storage utilisation running at 50%, it is not difficult to understand why cloud storage is at the centre of so much activity.

Anyone plugged into IT news services, can’t help but noticing the rising number of stories, and market valuations, relating to storage and data growth. Hence this blog.

2010’s impressive IDC entitled “The Digital Universe Decade – Are You Ready?” highlighted many of the issues which we are now facing on a global scale. The study suggests that the amount of digital information created annually will increase 44 fold from 2009 to 2020, as all major forms of media – voice, TV, radio, print – complete the journey from analogue to digital. But perhaps the most astonishing statistic revealed by the study was that 35% more digital information is created today than the capacity exists to store it. This number will jump to over 60% over the next several years.

So what is the solution? Is it cloud storage, is it a combination of traditional storage models, is it bigger disks? Or is it simply that we to actually have to change our behavior and start considering what data we do need and what data we don’t? Maybe we simply need some simple housekeeping and data discipline. Take the family calendar again – once one week is done, can I delete/recycle that week’s schedule?

OK a pretty simplistic example granted, but one that is being replicated a billion times each day. We now take thousands of pictures, safe in the knowledge that we never have to pay for film development costs, and we back them up – even the rubbish, out of focus ones. And all the time, we forget or are afraid, to periodically review and delete. It’s often far easier to buy the latest gadget with greater storage capacity than actually apply some sensible housekeeping.  Maybe a sentiment that businesses might want to consider?

Storing a degree of customer and business data has always been a necessity, of course; for both operational and legal requirements.  But surely there are certain data gathering activities which just don’t need to be carried out. Think of the last time you filled in a form – the public sector is particularly good at requesting information completely unrelated to what one is actually trying to do. Granted there are times when knowing a person’s gender, age, salary, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and disabilities or otherwise, could be necessary. Applying for a grant to install solar panels for example surely isn’t one of them? And of course the more you request, the more you store and the greater the risk of a security breach.

There are, of course, the arguments that such detail is required to prove that such grants are being fairly distributed, or that some other function is being performed with due care and attention. But there can be no doubt that storage demands, if left unabated will continue to grow in line with expectations, and that what we need to do is to start to think and work smarter:

– determine what data we need to record, and why
– ensure that we take the appropriate steps to store it
– and, protect it

Now, where is that I have to be at 4pm today??




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