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Advances in computing have made it easy for companies to generate and collect more information than ever before. Businesses often struggle to manage this increasing data inflow with their current data management frameworks, however.
In fact, data volumes are increasing at such a rapid rate, market research firm IDC predicted the collective sum of the world's data to grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025, at a compounded annual growth rate of 61%.
Many current data storage practices are proving problematic for meeting the requirements of this data explosion.
This is creating opportunities for channel partners to help put in place new data management frameworks for their customers.
The need for data management frameworks, procedures
Today's huge influx of data is resulting in multiple inefficiencies, according to Mike Sprunger, senior manager of cloud and network security at Insight Enterprises, a global technology solution provider. He cited the example of an employee who generates a spreadsheet and shares it with half a dozen co-workers, who then send the spreadsheet to half a dozen others. The 1 MB file morphs into 36 MBs, and when that information is backed up, data volumes double again.
As cloud and flash technologies lowered storage pricing dramatically, many companies simply added more storage capacity as data demands grew. While companies stored more, they purged less. Furthermore, industry and government rules and guidelines for maintaining data have been evolving. So it can be unclear how to meet regulatory requirements, Sprunger noted, and decide what data can go and what must be kept.
Compounding the challenge, communication between IT and business units is often mediocre or nonexistent. So neither group understands the business requirements or the technical possibilities of deleting outdated data, he added.
The result? Companies simply try to keep data forever.
"Long-term, many corporations' data retention policies are untenable," Sprunger said. One reason is the "simply buy more storage" mantra becomes financially and managerially unsustainable, he explained.
The COVID-19 pandemic tightened budgets and further highlighted the need for IT groups to curb inefficiencies.
Data access is another problem, Sprunger added. As information becomes key to operations, employees need better ways of accessing information than by having to ask the person who created a spreadsheet to send them a copy.
Instituting data management policies
To solve these problems, organizations need to put sound data creation and retention policies in place, according to Insight Enterprises. Part of Insight's cloud and data center transformation strategy seeks to optimize data for companies storing information in the cloud, on premises or a combination of the two.
Spranger pointed to clients that have benefited from these services. For example, an international financial software firm with operations in the European Union had no handle on what information it collected or how long it had to keep it. Insight worked with each business unit within the company to determine which items had to be retained and which could be purged. Insight also extracted assets from unstructured systems such as email and loaded the assets into a structured customer relationship management application.
Prior to instituting a data management framework, the customer's employees could not easily share information. The data now sits in a central database that employees can access.
Better access to information enhanced employee productivity, Sprunger said. "Employees were able to access information when they needed it because no one acts as the gatekeeper any longer."
Helping clients go from reactive to proactive
Channel partners can help organizations deal with data management issues in other ways.
For example, one of Insight Enterprises' customers, a hedge fund, erred on the side of caution by keeping all financial materials on file in case they were needed in an e-discovery case. As a result, they were accumulating data at alarming rates.
"Every six months, they budgeted for double-digit [storage] growth, say 10% to 15%, but ended up needing twice as much storage," Sprunger noted. The data sprawl put the hedge fund firm in reactive mode, frequently causing it to scramble to buy new hardware every 18 months.
Mike SprungerSenior manager of cloud and network security, Insight Enterprises
By putting in place new data retention policies, however, the hedge fund firm was able to decrease its data growth, reduce storage expenditures and become proactive in managing its data needs, Sprunger said.
Another customer of Insight's, an energy company, found itself grappling with a different type of problem. Department engineers at the company built complex analyses that ran on their laptops, which became conduits to that information. The process created efficiency problems that involved multiple copies of the same data, and limitations on data access for employees due to the data living on the laptop devices.
With Insight's help, the company moved the engineering data into a central repository. As a result, the lifespan for laptops increased because they stored less information, Spranger said. Additionally, the central data repository made it possible for other employees to gain easy access to the information they need.
As companies continue to rely on data to run their businesses, they will need to develop more advanced data management frameworks and retention policies, according to Insight. "Poor data retention policies are a silent killer for many organizations," Sprunger said.