Organisations do not run on data, they run on information. What this means is that the greatest benefits of modern data management are achieved when the underlying systems technologies are applied to the more effective management of information.
Some of this information, such as a current price list, must be available for instant access on a 24-hours a day basis for a period of days or weeks. Another type of document, such as an insurance agreement, may never be altered again once
it has been created, but must be held as a permanent, and reasonably accessible record, for many years.
The implications for underlying storage systems of these differing scenarios are complex and potentially costly. Instant access implies the use of relatively expensive online storage media, whereas permanent records may be safely consigned to inexpensive tape, or even CD or microfiche – so long as they can be electronically rediscovered in the event that they are ever needed again.
‘Intelligent’, virtualised storage environments provide information managers with the potential to create policies that store data according to these differing business parameters. Rules can be created that automatically transfer information records to appropriate storage media as the currency of the information changes, or that automatically delete it when (as in the case of an expired price list) it becomes redundant.
There are almost limitless other opportunities for modern data storage systems to automate background business processes which would otherwise divert resources from more productive and profitable activities, and vendors are now coming to market with information management lifecycle (ILM) offerings that will allow organisations to begin to exploit these opportunities.
What information lifecycle management seeks to do is to apply various technologies and techniques – among them storage management, document and content management, records management and search technologies – to manage and automate that process in a consistent, systematic, cost-effective way.
While some users see ILM as jargon for a set of activities they have been doing for some time, it would be a mistake to dismiss the approach out of hand. There is a solid business case for the adoption of its philosophy – if not its supporting technologies – for three pertinent reasons.
First, the volume of data under management has reached such levels that tracking and retrieving information has become daunting.
Second is the demand for high-availability – users want rapid access to data of varying ages and with no pre-indication of its importance and no threat of it disappearing forever. Third is the increased pressure on organisations to meet regulatory requirements and to ensure better corporate governance.
That is a tall order for storage decision-makers, but one that many have already responded to.