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More Stuff (or What We in the Archiving Business Call Data)

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I was attempting to get my bike rack out of the garage the other day, and I mean attempting……  I had to move some pipes, wood, a wood rack and a bucket just to get to the bike rack. The effort made me look at the items I was moving with the notion of why did I save this? You know the drill, you clean up, or come across something and that perennial decision comes up: should I keep this or just toss it? Now the easy thing to do is to just get rid of it, it is scrap material or something that you really don’t know what to do with, but nine times out of ten, we take the easy way out and come to a no decision and just “save” it just in case we “might” need it. What it really boils down to is you have no clue about what to do with it, but you hate to toss it out simply because you might need it….  Keep in mind, the “stuff” I was moving around had sat there for over a year with no movement at all. Sort of tells you something about the decision processes we go through. 

More Stuff 2.jpgMany of the same decision processes can be applied to corporate information. Corporate information, or Data, to keep it simple, comes in many flavors but it really boils down to two basic classifications: do I keep it or do I delete it? You would think that these two questions would be easy to answer and therefore an easy determination of whether the data has any value. Much like my garage, we are all faced with the same decisions in our corporate environments. We are all keeping things, or stuff for no real reason other than we didn’t or couldn’t make a definitive decision on what to do with it. I think it was George Carlin who had the best way of communicating this. We all have stuff, and as we go along we collect more stuff. Eventually we run out of space to store our stuff, so we get a bigger place, this way we can store MORE STUFF!

That said, it seems that our day to day lives have a strong parallel to our corporate sides, where the companies we work for do not always have definitive policies on how to manage their stuff, oh, sorry, meant their data. Different stuff J

Data equates to storage; storage equates to investment and that investment in turn leads to resources needed to manage, host and service that investment. There are many companies that have begun the journey of trying to manage their data, but in most cases it is not comprehensive. Data is tied to business units, policies are adopted sometimes above these levels or in silos. Many companies are now looking at hundreds of Terabytes (TB) of data that they simply do not know if it is relevant to the business.  Storing the data is only one part of the equation, but what is needed are tools that can allow corporations to process and classify their data so that it is now relevant to their business. It always comes back to what do we do with this information or stuff?

Classification of data ties into several disciplines, originally generally labeled as electronic content management (ECM), but most recently transformed into Archiving. But this too has many faces and use cases, data types, and business cases that all comprise motivators for engaging in this practice. But why?  Why are we engaged in this archiving? Some are for streamlining more expensive applications/storage like Exchange, others are doing it to satisfy legal requirements. There are many governing rules and regulations defining what we do with this information. Not all of it is black and white, unfortunately, but all the same, steps need to be taken to comply with the changes. The corporate environment has changed dramatically over the last 20 years when you look at the responsibility or liability a corporate entity has to deal with regarding its information. Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA, DOD requirements, these regulations span multiple business units, each with their own set of requirements.

The main governing or overseeing entity within most of today’s business is the Legal/Compliance departments. Here is where most decisions and directions regarding corporate compliance strategies are forged and applied to the business. It is in these areas where corporate adherence to policy becomes the priority and with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or FRCP, came a set of rules on how corporations are supposed to handle their data. 

There are tools today that provide high business value but what we have seen thus far there are not many that can transcend the business use cases across the enterprise.

I think at this point we at least have a base model being leveraged, though not as globally adopted as you might think, where our corporate entities are beginning to figure out how to deal with their data, so that as they grow, they can build out their investments to support the business rather than needing to deal with more data or Stuff.

Tied to this is the Ediscovery Reference Model or EDRM which defines how corporations can classify their data into relevant silos or business practices, if you like, so that they can now establish guide lines on how to manage their data, or stuff……………

That said, though, what comes next?

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