Frequently asked questions about data lifecycle management

Topics: Data Archive | Offsite Tape Vaulting

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Digital data is growing dramatically in volume and importance. As organizations continue to embrace digital transformation, they must ensure that strategies to protect, preserve and manage data are embedded into their business processes. This can be achieved through a sound data lifecycle management strategy.

But what exactly is data lifecycle management? Is it the same as hierarchical storage management, enterprise data management or information lifecycle management? Is it a term used in place of backup and archiving? How is digital storage related to physical storage—and how should the two work together?

Managing data is an imperative for every IT team today. Without the right strategy, you could see storage costs spiral out of control. You may also place additional burden on your staff and limit your organization’s ability to comply with regulatory standards or e-discovery requirements.

Building a successful data lifecycle management strategy is one of the most important challenges facing IT departments, since they are typically the ones responsible for managing the costs and processes related to data and storage. How can you ensure that you are meeting the current and future needs of your organization? Here are some of the questions asked most frequently by IT professionals.

Q. What Is Data Lifecycle Management?

A. Data is growing in volume, variety and value. Research has shown that the amount of data is doubling every two years and will continue to do so through the end of the decade.1Organizations are not only producing more data, they are required to save more data—and more types of data—to meet regulatory requirements and respond to potential e-discovery requests. This means there is more data to back up, archive and replicate for faster disaster recovery.

Treating all data the same and managing it in the same way throughout its lifecycle is a recipe for disaster. Storage costs will balloon out of control, and you will potentially clog up your mission-critical production storage with data that should be moved to less expensive tiers.

Developing a strategy to protect, preserve and manage your data from creation to destruction is what data lifecycle management is all about. A sound strategy can bring tremendous value to the business, including lower costs, faster response to regulatory and e-discovery requests, as well as the ability to leverage data for strategic business advantage through initiatives such as big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

There are also challenges to building a sound data lifecycle management strategy, including setting governance policies and using the right technologies at the right time. With the expansion of cloud services for storage, particularly for functions such as archiving and backup, IT teams have more choices than ever in how to protect, preserve and manage data.

But having more options is a challenge unto itself, because you have to decide which solutions should be used for which types of data. Making the right choices— or the wrong ones—could have a major impact on your business and on your budget. Today more than ever, it is critical to partner with a technology-agnostic third-party vendor that can help you create and manage your data lifecycle management plan.

Q.Is There Still A Place For Tape In Data Lifecycle Management, And If So, How, Where And When Do We Use Tape?

A. Reports of the death of tape are greatly exaggerated. Tape is still an extremely cost-effective medium for archiving, and it will continue to have an important place in a data lifecycle management strategy. There are several factors to consider in using tape, including:

  • The type of data you are archiving and when it should be moved to tape. Many companies find that tape is particularly cost effective for older data that may never have to be accessed but needs to be saved for compliance, e-discovery or historical purposes. This can often include dataheavy files such as medical images, CAD/CAM and site surveys.

  • Where and how to store tape so it can be effectively preserved, protected and managed. Keeping tape on-site can be an expensive and unnecessary use of precious space in the data center for data that offers little added value to the business. You may also increase risk in the event of a disaster. An off-site tape vaulting service can be much safer and more efficient than using internal resources to protect and preserve data on physical media.

  • How to ensure archived data is categorized and labeled. If you are using tape for archiving, it is important that your data is properly organized and indexed so that you can find and access it when needed. A third-party vendor can help you set up enforceable processes, whether you are keeping tape on-premises or using an off-site vaulting service.

Q. When And How Do We Tag Our Data To Ensure We Are Governing Classes Of Data In A Consistent Way? What Methods Can We Use To Have Consistent Protection Of The Data At The Different Stages Of The Lifecycle?

A. This is one of the most important steps in building a data lifecycle management plan. Organizations are dealing with exponential growth of new data varieties, from e-mail, social media, collaboration software such as SharePoint, IoT and other sources. Without a consistent approach to tagging and categorizing that content, you are potentially missing out on huge opportunities to leverage data at every stage of its lifecycle.

A study by IDC shows that successfully leveraging archives could yield millions of dollars in benefits to organizations: $11.4 million a year in risk mitigation or avoidance of litigation, $9.4 million in reduced operational costs, and $7.5 million in additional revenue.2 Despite these potential benefits, 88% of respondents said they lack a consistent approach to archiving, and 40% simply archive everything just to avoid upfront time sifting through data.3 But this is a shortsighted approach.

Developing a strategy to tag and categorize data gives organizations an opportunity to reduce risk, lower costs and drive revenue. When data is tagged at creation, it can be managed strategically at every stage of its lifecycle. Using the right solution— whether it’s an appliance, software or a new solution such as object storage—is critical to maximizing the value of data. This is one more reason to work with a third-party vendor that is not beholden to a specific technology platform.

1 “The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things,” IDC, April 2014
2 “Mining for Insight: Rediscovering the Data Archive,” IDC and Iron Mountain, June, 2015
3 Ibid, footnote 2

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