The fact that data is the most prized asset within any organisation is not news. What many decision makers may not realise, however, is that the management of corporate information involves an all-encompassing process of categorisation, writes Paul Luff, country manager of SMC Networks South Africa.

The main reason for this is that data needs to be filtered throughout the organisation and applied whenever and wherever possible. A leveled, systematic ‘classification’ process must be engaged.
There is no doubt that information management, including data mining, data archiving and other areas pertaining to corporate governance legislation, remains at the forefront of modern business management. The way a company retains, secures, archives and transfers information is what differentiates businesses across many sectors and industries.
In the past some sectors would have taken a rather over-cautious approach to network infrastructure and data storage system investment, preferring to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ stance. However, a combination of the introduction of corporate governance legislation, digital and cyber security developments and protection of intellectual capital with the volume of multi-media information exchange, the Internet and social networking, means that this position can no longer suffice.
Now the retention or storage of information and the rate at which an organisation can mine into it and utilise or manipulate this information is central to any competitive corporate strategy.
The reality of markets the world over is that data can be categorised as email, accounting systems and various other areas of functionality within the business. A logical, strategic approach to data storage is to follow this categorisation process by setting relevant rules and then draft a document which enables the effective management of data.
From a practical point of view, it is here where companies often stumble. They loose their grip and sure-footing by overcomplicating the situation, or not having the correct document and policies in place, or worse still – no policy at all. Corporate governance regarding information storage is more than mere gaining immediate control over infrastructure to help manage the situation – it is about longevity, credibility and the vulnerability of the organisation in terms of security.
A concerted effort must be made to reduce the amount of data stored on personal PCs and laptops. It is also advisable to implement central servers or Network Attached Storage (NAS) boxes or similar devices and enforce data storage policy amongst users.
In short, set up a document that governs data requirements and ensure that it is enforced. This is the most practical, most effective and, ultimately, most sustainable approach to data storage and use within organisations.