Over the past week, the New York Times published a series of articles on the growing importance of digital information in industries ranging from retail to health care to media/entertainment. I took some time over the holiday season to think about all the ways that companies rely on an expanding set of applications to compete in this difficult and rapidly changing business environment. They are:
- Relying on email, collaboration tools, and Web sites to communicate and conduct business with customers and business partners
- Collecting, storing, and continuously analyzing more information about products, customers, and transactions
- Digitizing records, design documents, videos, and other types of unstructured data to boost efficiency, offer new services, and comply with evolving government regulations.
In fact, IDC believes that 66.6% of all storage capacity shipped worldwide in 2010 (over 11 Exabytes) will be used to store images, files, and other unstructured data. This expansion in the range and scale of information that companies are creating, accessing, and archiving is already having a significant, though still often overlooked, effect on how they organize their datacenters and store information. If you're not sure, just go out and do an inventory in the growth of SharePoint instances in your organization.
In this information intense world, policies and processes for the collection, organization, archiving, and delivery of information must be major IT governance priorities. My colleagues and I at IDC are investigating a number of challenges that companies face as they deploy more robust and effective information and data management policies and solutions. Some of the questions we are asking include:
- How are companies planning to cost effectively provision and upgrade the storage assets needed to store multiple petabytes of active information for years and (in some cases) decades?
- What impact are diverse and rapidly evolving regulations on data privacy having on companies information gathering and distribution as well as their use of data analytics tools?
- How is the wholesale digitization of industries such as media/entertainment, healthcare, energy delivery, and legal services (eDiscovery) changing how companies approach the classification and organization of information assets?
We also want to hear from you on what role new technologies (e.g., virtualization, SharePoint, scale-out file-based storage) and new service offerings (e.g., storage and archiving in the cloud) are or may play in complicating and/or reducing your information governance challenges. When evaluating any investments in storage and information management solutions, ask yourselves the following questions before proceeding. Does the investment:
- Reduce overall storage costs as well as simplify data organization and management
- Automate movement of data between high-cost to lower-cost storage tiers (data migration is a major though often overlooked cost)
- Deliver content-level data access control and security, not just device level security
- Reduce time and resources required for backup and disaster recovery of all information assets
By taking the time, now, to realistically assess current and future information creation and usage, you will be in a better position to develop an IT governance strategy that makes the information explosion a business asset, not a liability.