Earlier this year, Science Express published researchers’ calculations of the world's total technological capacity in an effort to determine how much information humankind is able to store, communicate and compute. What they found indicated that humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information. It’s unclear how much of that information accounts for redundancy or duplication, however.
Managing Data for Humankind, er, the Enterprise
There’s no doubt, 295 exabytes is a lot of information. So why do we expect that we can manage it all, or at least what belongs to our organization, effectively and efficiently? Try as we might, though, purging information isn’t the solution, as most of it doesn’t exactly disappear -- it’s archived or kept for disaster recovery. As well, developing processes to manage it only go so far, even when they’re automated.
What makes managing corporate data so complicated? For answers, we turned to Jim McGann, vice president of marketing at Index Engines, for some guidance. As you know, Index Engines is one of the leaders in enterprise discovery solutions, working to help companies organize enterprise data assets, to make them accessible, searchable and easier to manage.
CMSWire: What are three things every company should know about managing corporate data?
Jim McGann: Know what you have, know where it is and don't save everything. Let me explain.
- Know what you have: Many organizations don’t have a clear understanding of the content that their users generate. Emails and files are created every day. For example, there are communications that define agreements; documents that are contracts; spreadsheets that dictate pricing commitments, to name a few. All this critical content is stored on corporate networks, but is not easy to manage because, many times, the content is unknown to those who are enforcing the policy.
- Know where it is: Data is created by users on desktops and in emails and then quickly gets replicated on the network, as well as backed up by IT departments for disaster recovery. Backups are the most hidden source of data, because copies are created every night and stored offsite for safekeeping. This content has typically been ignored. However, many cases have occurred recently where the only copy of relevant data has been on backup tapes. Many times, that’s the exact content that a judge has ordered to be produced. Therefore, understanding all locations of data is critical to managing liability.
- Don’t save everything: Saving all user content is dangerous. Keeping all communications and documents that are no longer required is not advisable, as it could come back to haunt a company and an employee. It is important to have a defensible policy in place that defines the data that should be kept and the data that should be remediated. This policy can only be applied if a company knows what it has and where it is stored.
CMSWire: Why do so many companies fail to manage their corporate data effectively? Are they under-educated? Do they honestly think they're not at risk?
McGann: The working relationship between the legal and IT teams are not in place to manage data effectively. We see it over and over again, where legal teams are not working hand in hand with IT to define the policy, so that IT can execute the policy. It is not difficult to execute. IT has the resources and in fact would welcome a policy, so it can purge large volumes of content to save money on storing backup tapes. It is more common to see the policy for IT to be “save everything.” A policy like that is helping no one and is, in fact, causing future liability.
CMSWire: Is it enough to simply manage data? How can companies stay up-to-date on trends and risks affecting their industry?
McGann: The key is to have a rich understanding of the data, so that as risks and policies change, organizations can respond and manage the data accordingly. Most organizations get overwhelmed with not knowing what they have. If they develop a knowledge base of their content that can be adapted to their policy, they will be able to more effectively manage data and protect the company during times of litigation.
Manage Your Piece of Humankind Effectively
Don’t get us wrong -- managing data in the enterprise is not easy, and McGann’s advice isn’t meant to convince you that it is. Instead, these basic principles can help guide the process, which hopefully makes managing your piece of 295 exabytes of information more manageable. Have another question for Jim McGann or about managing corporate data? Let us know in the comments.