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The key, then, is to identify the garbage. Data classification products can help, but there's still a fair amount of manual work involved in using these tools effectively. Typically, end users will have to participate, which can heighten awareness of the garbage problem. Some products actually require end users to provide some data classification information each time they create, download or copy a new file. Users will be less apt to stick a YouTube video in their share if they're forced to enter meta data about the file, which will also make it patently clear that they own that file. Coupled with some corporate rules about the proper use of IT resources, that setup could become an even more effective deterrent.
There are other steps you can take. You can use your server operating systems or management software to restrict the types of files users can drop into individual volumes or directories. That way, you don't necessarily have to ban all types of files or force users to identify them individually, but you'll make users take an extra step when they want to save something they shouldn't, which may change their minds. Even if that doesn't dissuade them from saving the junk, you'll have a good idea where to look when the garbage begins to accumulate again. You can even let users know that those volumes won't be backed up regularly (or even at all).
And there's always the "all MP3 files will be deleted on Friday" approach. But a solid company- wide data destruction
This was first published in September 2007