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Make organizing data your New Year's resolution

It’s the New Year and it’s time to organize things around the home.  Throw out things that you no longer need. Take things that you probably won’t need but you’re not sure about, and put them in the attic. It’s a fairly simple exercise, but not done regularly. It happens now because the advent of a new year reminds us to do it.

This is similar to what storage administrators need to do this time of year. They need to organize their data, delete data that is no longer needed, and archive data that is unlikely to be used in regular processing.  Maybe the archive target device should be called the “attic.” What they are really doing is making decisions about information. What is the value of the information, who owns it, what restrictions regarding compliance are there for that information, and can it be deleted?

There are several approaches to making decisions about the information. Some people don’t make decisions because there is no clear guidance and they might make the wrong choice. An interesting strategy from one storage administrator was to archive data to tape without migrating the data to new tape technology when the old generation of tape drives became obsolete. Eventually, there would be no drives left that could read those tapes and the administrator did not have to worry about the decision to delete the data.

Archiving has become a misused or at least misunderstood term. It really is about taking data that is not expected to be needed and moving it to another location. This is done for economic advantages, and potentially to meet regulatory requirements. Over time, the term has expanded to “active archive”  and “deep archive.” Active archive is for data that is retained in the original context so an application or user can retrieve it without an intervening process. Deep archive is for data that is not expected to be needed, but may be. Both locations can support immutability, versioning, and other compliance requirements. There are advocates of using cloud-based storage for deep archive.

Managing information effectively includes archiving data by making intelligent decisions about what gets archived and where. The economic value of moving data off primary storage systems is great. An ongoing policy to move data periodically compounds that value. It should not take a trigger such as a new year to make a decision about organizing and moving unneeded stuff to the attic. It is a valuable IT process.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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