How understanding your data is the first step to managing it

No matter how big the company or what sector it operates in, information is at the heart of every business. And with data volumes growing at a rate of 50-80% annually, according to the International Data Corporation, the ability to effectively manage and contain this information is now key to any organisations success. It is therefore no wonder that business leaders are turning to their IT suppliers as they fast realise the need to adopt a structured and flexible approach to data management.

Why address data management now?

Pretty much every IT department is faced with the same two-pronged challenge: firstly to accommodate growing amounts of data that is retained for reference, such as e-mail, presentations, designs, web content, photos and images.

Secondly, organisations need to do this in compliance with regulations that govern how data volumes are managed, requiring established infra­structures to protect data from destruction, loss, or misuse.

The economic downturn means that IT spend, now more than ever, is under scrutiny and as such it is crucial to optimise IT investment and manage and use information efficiently.

Finding the right solution

But developing a data management strategy is a process that is individual to the organisation. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all package - the only effective solution is a bespoke one that starts with getting to know your data.

How much do you know about your companys data?

Managing data starts with IT departments knowing what data they have and understanding the format it needs to adopt for the company to conduct its business efficiently and profitably.  This means working with analysts to look at partnerships, supply chain, internal working, partners and set policy and should cover retained and used data, speed-of-access, backup and disk environment requirements.

This should all be assessed alongside costs how much does their data cost? For example, most organisations store significant amounts of irrelevant data. Employees are reluctant to delete personal files, meaning that servers are accommodating everything from holiday pictures to personal letters, scans and emails. To add to this, corporate anxiety leads organisations to keep data forever. It is therefore essential to figure out how much redundant data is languishing on your system.

Armed with this information, the company is ready to select a supplier who will work with them to tailor a solution that puts the best management technique to work.

Data management solutions

Many storage vendors promises life cycle management (LCM) - the movement of data through tiered storage based on usefulness, government compliance, access criteria, and security which regulates how companies deal with different categories of information. It is a policy-based approach to managing the flow of a system's data throughout its life: from creation and initial storage to the time when it becomes obsolete and is deleted. Data life cycle management (DLM) products automate the processes involved, typically organising data into separate tiers according to specified policies, and automating data migration from one tier to another based on those criteria. Data life cycle management is not a product, but a comprehensive approach to information management, involving procedures and practices as well as applications.

If your client understands their organisations data, and have conducted a comprehensive analysis, LCM should be a given, no matter which solution they choose whether its virtual tape, virtualisation and deduplicaton (such as that offered by Hitachi Data Systems and Exagrid), or inline devices such as Storwize. All of these products have their own core advantages, and to get the most out of them requires a bespoke solution based on a real understanding of the companys data.

Thus, it is all the more important now that the channel helps IT managers to gather appropriate information at the appropriate time, leveraging solutions that are not only cost effective, but also optimise ROI. A sound knowledge about the existing data is the basis upon which an effective data man­agement solution can be built.

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