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ILM in the large enterprise

Storage management expert Brett Cooper answers the question: Are there any basic guides on how a manufacturing company could manage their data better?

My company is facing a growing amount of electronic files. Many of these files are redundant, many are attached to e-mails (and therefore multiplied and lost to most workers), PST files are expanding and sharing files amongst workgroups is adhoc. Are there any basic guides on how a manufacturing company could manage their data better (rules for e-mail, shared file structures, etc.)?
Welcome to the great world of the information-centric enterprise: the growth of information within the organization is outpacing organizations' ability to manage it. This is the challenge that the strategy behind information lifecycle management ( ILM) is working to solve. The team at the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and ARMA International are sponsoring an event specifically targeted at this challenge: Enterprise Information World 2006 Conference and Tradeshow in Secaucus, New Jersey, February 28-March 2, 2006 at the Crown Plaza Hotel. You can review all of the specifics at www.enterpriseinformationworld.com. Also, I would suggest that you visit the SNIA Web site for information on ILM. There is an excellent white paper on the topic of ILM at www.snia.org/tech_activities/dmf/ilm.

Back to your question: There are two types of information that you are trying to manage; unstructured information or user-created files, and semi-structured information or the information maintained within an e-mail environment. Both of these environments require a different perspective. The reason behind the different perspectives is relatively simple: Each environment has a different manager and a different set of goals for the information. User-created files are managed by the users themselves while e-mail and the systems that run e-mail are managed by an e-mail manager. This results in a division of labor and selection of a product to solve the challenge.

For user files on shares, I would suggest looking at a product from Intermine called FileCensus. FileCensus does exactly what it sounds like it does; it takes a census of all of the user files in the environment including Windows, NetWare, Linux and Unix Platforms. FileCensus then provides you with the tools and information that you need to make an intelligent, informed decision to manage the information based on policies that you create. You could tier your storage and setup a policy to migrate specific files based on their age or value to the organization to a less expensive storage tier (ATA for example). There are many benefits to a set up such as this one. You reduce the risk of information exposure from sources such as employees that no longer work for the company or information that should not be there such as MP3s or contracts that have expired. You reduce costs by reducing the top-tier storage burden. And finally, you reduce complexity, as the environment will be more streamlined and you will have a 360 degree view of information on a regular basis to understand who has the most storage and what they are using it for.

From the above description of the product you can see a process forming that is iterative in nature: 1.) set goals for the information -- budget, timeframe, value of information; 2.) discover information; 3.) evaluate the information and understand if it meets the goals; and 4.) manage through policies and automation the movement and removal of information based on the goals that you set at the beginning of the process. You can check out Intermine's FileCensus at www.intermine.com

For the semi-structured information I would suggest looking at the Symantec-Veritas Enterprise Vault for Exchange products (if you are running Exchange that is) as it is the industry's leading product for e-mail management. The Enterprise Vault product works cooperatively with the Exchange server to understand the usage patterns of e-mail as well as the repository for users and documents so you can understand what information has value and then move the information to the right location. One of the compelling features of the Enterprise Vault product is the ability to store the information so the Exchange server does not have to be online to recall information in the case of a specific need, like a discovery process that results from legal action, or a user requiring a quick restore of a given mail item or document. More information on the product can be found here.

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