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Effective information governance essential to manage data growth

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In the past five to 10 years, data growth has accelerated at an exponential rate, particularly around unstructured data such as emails, videos, pictures, documents, spreadsheets and more. This level of content creation has the potential to yield significant insight for businesses that can successfully leverage and analyse it. Fred Mitchell, security software division manager at Drive Control Corporation

However, given the sheer volume of information generated this can prove challenging, especially given the fact that, with increasing regulations requiring important data to be retained for long periods of time, nobody wants to delete anything. The problem with such a data retention policy is that it lacks any intelligence or strategy. Hoarding data makes it all but impossible to gain insight into important information, because organisations do not know which information is of any value to their business.

Information governance, in the form of effective policies, processes and technology, is essential in leveraging the value of information while optimising storage capacity and a host of other benefits.

When it comes to the issue of data retention, many organisations simply keep it all, on the off chance that it may be needed at some point in the future. Accommodating growth has therefore tended to be a discussion around storage capacity, rather than the implementation of a strategy with any form of intelligence. While storage is relatively inexpensive, this approach simply does not scale with the current accelerating rate of data growth, and in fact can become a significant financial strain on organisations that simply multiplies as data continues to grow.

This has an impact on the business from three different aspects: money, time, and risk. Infrastructure often makes up a large proportion of IT spend, with much of this budget going toward storage capacity. This removes budget from other, more strategic and value-adding initiatives. In addition, the total cost of ownership of data goes far beyond the cost of the storage, as it must be managed as well. Managing huge volumes of data also takes a lot of effort from many people – data needs to be highly available, secure and legally compliant. Managing data takes time, not to mention the added time it takes to find anything specific within volumes of data.

Finally, hoarding data is perilous. Keeping files that could and should have been deleted means they can be discoverable in the event of a lawsuit. In addition, the cost of eDiscovery is significant, and having to sift through piles of irrelevant information takes further time, costs more money, and is often completely unnecessary. The risk impact is bigger than this, however. A disjointed, disparate data management strategy results in files stored in a variety of different locations, making it exceptionally difficult to keep track of who has access to this data. This risk is compounded by mobility, cloud-based file sharing and more, making it easier than ever for data to be leaked.

Over and above the time, money and risk involved with data hoarding, the stark reality is that statistics estimate that as much as 70% of data that organisations retain has absolutely no business or legal value. It is literally dead weight, taking up valuable storage capacity, costing money to manage, and contributing nothing to the business. This data should be deleted – but without information governance and management strategy, there is no way to identify this valueless data, nor any way to ensure its defensible deletion.

Successful information governance therefore requires insight into your data, in order to identify that which has value or must be retained, and that which can and should be safely deleted. An insightful approach to information governance allows organisations to move from a strategy focused on storage footprint to one focused on intelligent data management, which then empowers analysis and more informed decision-making. Insight allows organisations to gain visibility into their data and any governance challenges, implement effective data management policies, and improve data management practices in order to reduce risk and optimise time and money spent.

Insight into data allows organisations to protect the data they need to retain, and eliminate the data they do not, something which is increasingly essential with growing data volumes. Sound information governance is critical in a world where data continues to grow in an exponential fashion. There are many steps that can be taken, from the implementation of age-based policies and archiving strategy to automation of information management processes, to the routine management of volumes of unstructured data. Information governance is a journey that all organisations should embark on sooner rather than later to save time, save money and improve their data insight.