Kathleen Hurley, IT Director, Madison International Realty, LLC
You may not see it coming, but you will know it when it happens. A user has accidentally deleted a file, and asks Information Technology to restore that file. They give the advertised logical file path where the file was last stored. The IT department takes a deep breath, cancels lunch plans, and then starts looking for the actual physical location of the file to perform the file restore.
Or you may see it coming, long in advance, with a new directive from the Compliance department, or the discovery that a departed employee has been storing his files on Google Drive. The days of blindly overlooking the personal Dropbox accounts, USB disks, and PST files on local storage are necessarily gone. There’s no longer a good reason for anyone in an organization, much less in the IT department, to pass by a storage problem.
Of course, there are situations in which those data storage silos are never discovered. With the pervasive nature of cloud storage and the rise of shadow IT, users are capable of creating storage locations that may not even be with in the purview of Information Technology’s data management tools and strategies. Physical storage is often replicated and duplicated over multiple frameworks. Legacy backup strategies can create insecure and out of band storage segments. Near-line and far-line archives are another part of a company’s storage that has to be handled. Even when all of the storage locations are sanctioned and fully transparent, maintaining coherent data structures that can be properly managed can seem like a full time job. Along with everything else that IT is tasked with accomplishing, ensuring data protection, integrity and security is possible. The task simply requires the right set of tools.
"The days of blindly overlooking the personal Dropbox accounts, USB disks, and PST files on local storage are necessarily gone"
An inventory of storage locations is a great asset when it’s possible to achieve. Identifying the SharePoint storage, OneDrive directories, physical file storage, Google Drives, and AWS containers can take a very long time and seem like a very thankless task. However, it’s absolutely critical that an organization be able to point to the location of a file, both logically and physically. Particularly when there is replicated data or backup data involved, it can be a great idea to diagram the storage network. Where there is documentation of security structures, it’s very wise to add that information to storage documentation.
Once you’ve achieved a sense of where data exists, the first stage of remediation is identifying the organization’s data related goals. There can be compliance requirements that dictate some aspects of those priorities. Organizations which have to tag, version, and audit are going to need to use an indexing tool to create the hierarchical and structural information they need. While regulatory requirements can seem like a pain in the neck most of the time, there is an upside to the rules in this situation. Imposing any modern indexing strategy, using any modern indexing tool, will by nature create transparency and a single pane of glass, even when there are multiple storage silos involved.
In situations when there is no imposition of regulation, there is still a strong incentive for the Information Technology team to use a tool to see into the multiple storage locations and networks and cloud storage locations which house an organization’s data. A company whose feet are not held to the fire might balk at the somewhat high cost that is generally attached to the type of software product that is needed, but the alternative is very labor intensive. Without a tool to bring together all of the storage locations so they can easily be managed, it’s necessary for the IT department to centralize the storage. Migrating data from various places into one location comes with additional ongoing operating costs, such as added cloud storage, but the overhead that is required to get the data logically and structurally arranged for users comes with the potential to cost more than an indexing product ever could.
Besides, the future probably holds more different ways for users to store their data, and more locations in which data can be stored. Without investing in the proper management tools early, an organization will only have a more difficult time as storage technology evolves. When an IT department is faced with storage sprawl, there are only a few options. Ensuring that storage is handled with the utmost care is one of the responsibilities Information Technology has had for many years. Making sure that the company’s data is handled with the greatest integrity and care and oversight is one of the growth areas that face many IT departments in many industries. If storage is creeping and keeping up with it is getting the best of your IT team, consider if you’ve put the right tools in place to make a success of the practice of data management.