The data that your business contains must be protected with a robust backup regime, but has your business thought about how it manages the storage aspect of its data management? Simply clicking 'save' is no longer an option, as your business needs to think about the structure, value and storage media that will be used.
Understanding the data in your business is a vital audit to carry out. Most small businesses will have local storage, perhaps use some form of network storage such as NAS (Networks Attached Storage) or may have already begun to use cloud based storage services. The important aspect of all of these data activities is to develop a clear policy that is followed throughout your business.
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Attaching a value to the data that your business creates may seem an odd way to approach data storage, but all data does not have the same value to your company. A customer's personal profile may have a high value, whereas, information gathered for a report that has been superseded clearly is of less value to your business.
But how should your data storage systems reflect these differing values? Without a clear data storage policy, data can overrun your business and impact on its overall performance and profitability. To determine the value of the data in your business consider:
- The age of the data your business is storing. Older files may well be of less value, but often legacy data – sales information for instance – can be highly valuable. Age is a factor, but don't simply delete older files until you have evaluated their actual value.
- The location of data is also important to consider. Today with the growing trend of BOYD (Bring Your Own Device) to work, data can be locally stored on a wide range of devices. Your data audit should not ignore these data stores, as they could contain highly sensitive and valuable information.
- The type of files your business stores can often be a clear indication of value. Think about the file types your business typically stores. Which are the most valuable? You may think that emails are worthless, but they can form an essential part of a customer services conversation that should be stored for future reference. Emails can also contain legal and accounting information that should be retained.
- Analysts IDC estimate that 75 per cent of data today is a copy. Does your business need to store these files?
Performing a complete data audit will take time and resources. The data map that the audit produces is vital to obtain, as this is your business' guide to the best data storage system to implement for your enterprise.
A whitepaper from F5 concisely makes the case for a smarter approach to data storage: "The first step in creating a smarter storage strategy is to classify your data by business value. For most organizations, it is not practical to manually classify all of their file data. Not only is the volume of files too great, but the rate at which their values constantly change makes this an endless task."
Storage in the cloud
Cloud based storage services have given the impression that data storage is simply a drag and drop affair. This can be the case for some data, but your business needs a more comprehensive data storage strategy that all of your business can use.
After your data audit, the next step is to think about where the different data types will be stored to ensure their security but also their availability to the people that need the information. Generally, your business has a number of key storage mediums to choose from:
- Local storage where information is stored on local hard drives. This storage medium is ideal for day-to-day information such as general office files.
- Networked storage, which is increasingly being typified by NAS storage, that places the storage device onto your business' network making it available to a wider number of users. Here, your data security policy goes hand-in-hand with your data security policy to create a unified data management policy for your entire business.
- Cloud based storage is in vogue and can offer small businesses a flexible data storage strategy that can grow as their needs change. Often, cloud data storage will be used alongside other storage platforms to offer the flexibility that small business needs today.
- Archived data such as company accounts that won't need to be accessed on a regular basis can be moved to permanent storage such as tape or CD ROM depending on the amount of data concerned. The cloud is also becoming a favoured destination for this type of data, as costs have continued to fall.
- It's vital that your business does not confuse data backup with archiving, as they are not the same, but often, smaller businesses will believe that a good backup regime is also a good archiving system.
Looking at mass data storage, Quantum state: "Setting strategies to archive data in an automated, reliable, cost-effective way is emerging as the right approach for organisations in a wide variety of industries. Archiving older data so that it's automatically moved to less expensive storage media—such as cheaper disk or tape—frees up costly primary storage. That means as companies collect more data they can prioritise it based on how old it is and how often it is accessed. When done properly, archived data is inexpensively but reliably stored and easily accessed."
For most businesses an integrated approach will be the most useful and efficient. One type of data storage does not fit all needs, so your business will likely have to develop a bespoke and hybrid data storage system. Looking ahead and planning how your business' future data storage needs will be met is vital to place into your enterprises overall business planning.