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How do I ensure proper information lifecycle management?

How can I help my clients ensure proper information lifecycle management?

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Theoretically information lifecycle management is the process of ensuring that, throughout its life, information is stored in a manner consistent with its value. Most organizations have difficulty determining the value of each piece of information and then determining the most appropriate way to store it.

Most information -- including email messages, spreadsheets and documents -- goes through several life stages. Early on, information has significant value because it's actively used in current business practices and may be referenced at a moment's notice. Later, information is referenced less often, and it may be cost effective to store it in a slower and cheaper tier of storage. Next, it enters the long period where access is unlikely, but the information must be retained for regulatory compliance or policy reasons. The final stage of the information lifecycle is when it reaches the point where it has no further value.

When it comes to figuring out appropriate storage and your client's data backup strategy, several factors are in play:

  • Availability – Make sure information is available to users when they need it. You can propose technologies like continuous data protection, clustering and online backup to insure data remains available.
  • Retention – Ensure that data is preserved as long as government regulations and/or corporate policies require. Your clients may not be aware that storage compliance regulations like HIPPA require them to retain some of their records for more than 20 years. Other regulations like SEC 17-4a require that the data be retained in a manner that prevents it from being deleted or modified, even by system administrators.
  • Once you've worked with the client's senior management and legal counsel to develop a retention policy, you can propose information lifecycle management technologies like content-addressable storage and optical disks for data archiving.
  • Destruction – Keeping data beyond its useful life is costly in terms of disks, tapes and IT labor. This data may have to be searched in the event of legal action. Just searching through a year's worth of daily backups on an Exchange server can cost thousands of dollars in consultant and legal fees.
  • This presents opportunities for VARs to build processes to delete data and destroy backups once the data has reached the end of life.
  • Protection –This involves protecting sensitive data from exposure. The news is full of reports of organizations, from TJX to the Veteran's Administration, that have exposed personal data on their customers, including credit card and Social Security numbers.
  • You can help clients implement encryption regimes for data on laptops and backup tapes, including the all-important key management system to ensure clients can read their own data when they need to.
  • Classification –While age is a rough indication of data value, the biggest issue in information lifecycle management is accurately assigning value to data. Vendors like Abrevity and Kazeon can use the content of data items to more accurately assign them value.

This was first published in January 2008

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