Businesses need to let go of old data, says expert

Companies are not deleting any data, which drives up storage costs, according to storage and infrastructure consultant Andrew Tippett, who currently works for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

As the volume of data grows exponentially, companies are struggling to meet their storage needs, but are unwilling to let go of data that is no long relevant to their business, according to independent storage and infrastructure consultant Andrew Tippett.

Tippett is currently employed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as the senior manager of operations and infrastructure, and has provided counsel for other clients.

Companies are often reluctant to delete anything, even staff emails, to free up storage space, as they fear the information may be useful sometime in the future, he said. The Storage Network Industry Association said that many CEOs have little idea of what kind of data their company holds.

This leads to data warehouses being filled up with anything and everything, which in turn, drives up the cost of data storage, according to Tippett.

"I've seen places where people have data going back to 1976," he said at the Commvault big data roundtable. "When you look at that particular data, it says it's a one-off back-up for recovery that I doubt would be used again."

Often, the data would have been moved through many different storage systems as IT infrastructures progressively get refreshed, and the data may not even be accessible anymore, Tippett said.

"It's easy not to make policy decisions around storage, easy to just chuck data into data warehouses, and easy to buy more storage than it is to delete it," he said.

The challenge for many businesses is that they lack a designated person that owns the data and can make decisions on what information can be purged, according to Tippett. The problem is that it ends up being a vicious cycle of pass the parcel between corporate lawyers, record keepers, application owners and IT folks, he said.

The IT department ends up driving the clearance of old and superfluous data, but trying to nail down a clear policy to do so is difficult, Tippet said.

"Sometimes, you put the policy out there [to staff within an organisation] saying we're going to delete your emails in seven years, and you just wait and see if anybody complains," he said. "We have cost restrictions and we have to delete stuff — we're not just going to keep stuff forever."

Tippett finds that cost is a big motivator for companies to rethink the way they do storage.

Being able to show the amount of money a company can save by simply getting rid of useless data can often inspire decent decisions to be made around storage, he said.

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