Make the most of your data storage

Robert May, Managing Director at IT solutions consultancy ramsac says the safe and secure storage of valuable business data is an essential requirement for all organisations.

“Failure to do so correctly can result in lost, stolen or leaked data, leading to potentially embarrassing and damaging repercussions to the overall reputation of the business. Yet the ongoing and incremental cost of storing more and more information can spiral ever upwards. Having a data storage policy in place will help you to understand, manage and budget for what information is being stored and where, what needs to be stored and what doesn’t, as well as who need access to it.

The first step is to think about where your data is being stored. In any organisation data can exist in a wide variety of formats whether it is on a memory stick, CD or DVD, the hard drive of a laptop, desktop PC, a server, or even a dedicated off-site data centre.

Following this, think carefully about what information needs to be stored and for how long. This will of course be different for every business. Continually purchasing additional storage as demand seemingly dictates can get expensive quickly, so it is prudent to only keep data that is valuable and likely to be needed in the future. For example, you may be obliged to keep records for a specified period to meet the regulatory compliance demands of your governing body, but what happens after this time has elapsed? Many organisations simple leave it to unnecessarily clog up their IT systems.

Once you understand what you have, what you need and where it is, you can begin to declutter.

The wealth of different files (and often duplicate versions of files) being stored from different sources means there will typically be a mass of what could be considered unstructured data – the data equivalent of a cluttered desk. By purging this unstructured data regularly it is possible to free up space a considerable amount of space, giving greater capacity for important business files without the need for additional expenditure.

Think about how you store data. As well as the convenience, regularly archiving files also gives greater assurance that data will be backed up safely in case of software, hardware, or user errors that can result in data loss. For example Quality Assurance is very important for many service-based companies, so being able to keep an audit trail of emails and other documents is imperative. However, this does not necessarily mean that all files are needed immediately all the time. An archiving system that is used on an ongoing basis will move older files from everyday systems, where they can make the use and searching of current files more difficult.

Finally, don’t forget to back-up. Figures from a recent Google survey suggest that hard disks have a failure rate of around 7% each year, which means that information stored on one server, or even physically on one computer, can be at significant risk of irretrievable loss unless backup copies are produced on a regular basis.

Data storage is much like physical storage – it needs to be well managed to make sure that it is secure, that the space is used efficiently and that nothing is being kept that needn’t be there. It’s very easy to retain old files that nobody takes ownership of, but it’s important to make sure files are accounted for, sensibly stored and ultimately archived then destroyed when they are no longer needed.

It may not yet be Spring, but it’s an ideal time for a data Spring Clean.”