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Use compliance as a technology driver

Compliance regulations are a great way to convince your higher-ups to invest in new technology. Finally, something to thank Enron for.

Compliance is a strange beast for most IT people -- actually, for most Americans. We have always reacted negatively to being told what to do. Even within the IT world, we have been able to do pretty much whatever we wanted, despite reduced budgets and screaming from end users. Now, all of a sudden, the CFO [chief financial officer]-- or the security officer or the compliance officer or the general counsel -- has become a regular visitor to the IT shop. Most of us hadn't even heard some of those titles before. Heck, even the CEO shows up from time to time. Obviously, something has changed drastically. Do you know what the big change is? Compliance.

We now have a choice: either store and secure certain data in a certain fashion, or go to jail. What happened to the freedoms we once enjoyed? Before you go marching into Washington, D.C. let's give the following logic a shot.

Rules are made when people violate what society considers normal behavior. Well, a lot of rules were broken in the last few years. The scandals of WorldCom, Enron, Tyco, have resulted in daily events that cause us serious grief: spam, spyware, identity theft, unsolicited phone calls. It's no surprise that society is asking someone to do something -- if not as a whole, then through governmental bodies like the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] . The world we live in is very different from even a few years ago.

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As a result, this may be the best time in years for you to overhaul your storage infrastructure. All the stars are lined up. Technology is finally available. Management is motivated to spend money for things that are necessary. I suggest that you use compliance as the driver to do what needs to be done, regardless.

In many ways, our storage infrastructures are still quite archaic. Look at the way we have protected data all these years. We blindly do daily incrementals and weekly fulls without thinking. Yes, tapes got faster over the years. Yes, their access times have gotten better. But the fundamental way that we have protected data has remained unchanged. And the results are well known. Miserable backup speeds, horrendous backup reliability. Same goes for restores. Mercifully, SATA drives and a number of very exciting capacity optimizing software technologies have arrived on the scene, not an instance too early.

Most of these regulations require you to protect data more intelligently. And right now, the technologies are in a unique cosmic confluence with the needs of IT and business. This is the right time to redesign your IT infrastructure from several perspectives. But for now, I will focus on data protection, because it has been the most broken of all the pieces. Your management is totally motivated to do something. They know that if they don't they can go to jail. You have always wanted to do innovative, exciting things. Here's your chance.

In a year or two, you know things will change again. If nothing else, the regulatory bodies will become bureaucratic and Americans will respond like we always do -- by telling them to go shove it. Until then, enjoy!


Arun Taneja is the Founder, President and Consulting Analyst of the Taneja Group, an analyst and consulting group focused on storage and storage-centric server technologies. He has 25 years experience in the industry, specifically in the areas of servers, operating systems, storage area networks, network attached storage, clustering and storage management software.

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