By Mike Rees, Territory Account Manager for South Africa at Commvault

Digitisation has revolutionised the business world, enabling organisations to store, access and analyse far more information than ever before. The power of information is such that data has become strictly regulated to ensure it is maintained and cannot be used for nefarious purposes. However, one of the issues that has arisen from this is the fact that enterprises across all industry sectors tend to simply keep all of their data forever. Indiscriminate data storage results in a number of problems, from the inability to actually find any useful information, to the enormous cost associated with storage. Optimising data storage in line with business goals, requirements and legislation can save time, money and hassle, and drive greater value from stored information.

Keeping all of your data isn’t necessary

One of the greatest challenges of data is knowing what to keep, where to keep it, and how long to keep it for. Often, rather than effectively addressing this challenge, organisations will simply keep everything on expensive Tier 1 storage. The trouble is that data is increasing  at such a rapid rate that such a strategy is becoming exceptionally expensive, as enterprises continuously need to purchase more and more storage capacity. In addition, with the introduction of legislation such as the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act, as well as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), indiscriminately storing information now has legal implications.

The reality is that keeping all your data forever is not necessary. For example, there is so much data within any organisation that is not business related – the email about your colleague’s birthday that was sent to everyone or a picture of  your boss’ holiday. Many data storage systems will keep every single copy of each of these emails, resulting in a large amount of storage taken up by information that is irrelevant to the business. There is no business case for maintaining this data, particularly multiple copies in Tier 1 storage. Furthermore, multiple copies of data result in multiple backups, once again increasing costs unnecessarily.

A more intelligent approach is needed

While this strategy may seem to be the ‘easiest’ it is not intelligent, is increasingly expensive, and can also lead to further problems such as the inability to actually find any information should this be necessary. In addition, it makes real-time data analysis practically impossible, so organisations are unable to leverage any real value from the reams and reams of data they are expensively maintaining. A different approach is essentially to optimise storage infrastructure.

One approach is for an organisation to move its historical data onto lower storage tiers according to the type of data along with the need and frequency to access it. This enables more storage capacity at a less expensive rate. However, it still does not solve the problem of indiscriminate storage, it simply moves the data onto other platforms and does not offer any intelligence. Enterprises should apply certain specific features such as deduplication and. search and indexing capabilities. At some point, an organisation will also need to delete some of its data. Data management policies and defensible disposition strategies are critical in optimising storage infrastructure.

The impact of legislation

It is essential for businesses to apply the concept that ‘not all data is created equal’. In order to optimise data storage infrastructure, the organisation should firstly analyse the business, the laws that it must adhere to, and its business goals and requirements, with respect to data. This will enable the business to make informed decisions about what data needs to be keep, what has expired, what is unnecessary and what must be deleted for regulatory or other reasons. Data can then be located, deduplicated, migrated, deleted or otherwise optimised and incorporated into backup and recovery systems.

Legislation may seem to complicate matters, especially within areas like the medical sector where some complicated laws need to be applied to data storage and certain records need to be kept upward of 20 years. However, with intelligent policies and procedures in place, value can be leveraged from data regardless of industry or governing laws. In addition, the right data storage partner will be able to provide advice on data deletion and effectively maintain data such as clinical records in the optimal storage tier for the best possible cost to benefit ratio.

The right partner is key

PoPI and other laws are business problems yet data storage is also a business problem. They are not simply IT issues that can be solved with more hardware. Keeping all of your data forever is not sustainable or cost effective and can actually create issues for business, especially with data privacy laws. The key to success is teaming up with the right partner, who is able to work with your organisation develop an effective retention and deletion strategy and optimise data storage, driving down costs and increasing the business value of data.