Time for storage to come out of the back room

In this exciting era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence presenting new opportunities, it might seem rather mundane to discuss storage.

>See also: The promise of storage and IT infrastructure in 2018

But the ever-swelling sea of digital information required for and generated by these disruptors threatens to swallow us unless we implement well-managed archive programmes. From security and regulatory compliance to fast access and analytics, storage is a hot topic!

The obligations bring benefits

Increasingly rigorous rules and regulations mean organisations must ensure their data management and archiving is up to scratch. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline set for May 2018, businesses are obliged to demonstrate transparency in how they process and use customer data. Fines for non-compliance should galvanise organisations to develop data classification strategies, data usage and retention guidelines, and baseline security controls.

But it’s not all about compliance – there are clear benefits to such good practices, from hours saved in nightly backups to reductions in hardware costs and more secure data, not to mention easier access and exemplary processes for when the auditors come knocking.

So why aren’t more organisations getting prepared?

The number one reason for a lack of action is that it’s daunting. GDPR alone has 88 pages of new rules for businesses to get their heads round and the rapidly expanding global datasphere makes the job seem even larger. IDC forecasts that by 2025 there will be 163 zettabytes – ten times the amount last year.

>See also: The storage industry forecast: Predictions for 2018

Many businesses have allowed their storage systems to grow haphazardly as their data collection has increased, resulting in unstructured, duplicated and siloed files. The question for them is where to start?

At the very beginning

Too many companies make their decisions on the fly, based more on the hardware and software available than on their business requirements. Preparing well is critical, as is gaining a company-wide understanding of the data priorities: this isn’t just the concern of the IT department. A well-managed archive programme starts by answering the following essential questions. What kind of data – and how much – does the business generate, require and use? Are you subject to regulatory mandates? Where do you stand on employees’ private data? Which methods of data management best suit your needs?

A new era of storage options

These questions will help decide the type of system the organisation should upgrade to or install. Storage is no longer an inert space; there are real-time analytic and automation tools that will facilitate efficient archiving and valuable data management. These applications add cost to the solution, so a business should only choose functions that suit its requirements in terms of speed of access, volume of data, level of encryption.

>See also: An industry perspective of the evolution of storage – hyperconvergence

The Cloud Storage Market is a massive growth area, projected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 29.73%, reaching a total market size of US$92.488 billion by 2022, from US$25.171 billion in 2017. Previous issues associated with cloud storage such as latency, privacy and security are being resolved but non cloud native organisations are understandably reticent to take a rip and replace approach. Microsoft’s current focus on hybrid cloud reflects this and offers the ability to run legacy IT while exploiting the benefits of the cloud. Businesses’ main challenge today is deciding which data goes where: differentiating between primary and long-term accessibility.

Identify hot and cold data

One thing’s for sure – you don’t need to hold on to all the data in your business and archiving has a vital role to play in reducing the burden. Organisations must be certain they are storing only the information they need, in the most appropriate format. Inactive data typically accounts for around 70% of data stored, so this needs to be identified and archived off to more cost effective media. Data discovery tools will find out what’s actually in your systems and should be deployed regularly.

Data discovery will undoubtedly reveal employees’ personal files. You may allow these to exist, but personal files such as photos, videos and music will be consuming valuable server resources. Proper mapping allows the business to skip over the beach pics and Bach, saving space and reducing pressure on archiving and back-up storage.

Dump the duplicates and set some death dates

Another space waster on company servers is duplicated files. It’s human nature to make copies of documents and unstructured data in particular has a habit of expanding without anyone noticing. De-duplication tools will ensure that only one unique instance of each piece of data is being saved and the storage requirements are not multiplying.

>See also: Storage in an unstructured world – the role of object storage

No matter how scalable the storage system, there will be a limit to the number of times hardware can be expanded, so setting a policy for the retention of data is key to maintaining a manageable archive. Planning a death date for different types of data, bearing in mind any relevant legal requirements, is essential.

Make 2018 the year you declutter your data

Tidying away data can be challenging and requires discipline, but in the face of strict regulations and the need to optimise business processes it is an unavoidable task.

It is time for organisations to tackle this challenge by putting a structured archiving system in place or they will risk missing out on the benefits of a faster processing system, lower storage costs and simpler compliance.

 

Sourced by Richard Whomes, senior director, Rocket Software

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.