Donuts in the Breakroom

This is the first of a series of posts about information management. My plan is to write a series about managing information from a business and technology perspective, and not just how to reduce storage based on bits and bytes. Many studies have been performed which report that over 50% of business data does not hold any value to the business. There are many tools in the market, such as deduplication, to help reduce the storage footprint but they treat all data the same. They all work at the block level. My goal is to show that not all data should be treated the same. I will also discuss how to manage your data across many platforms as well as how incorporating cloud solutions may impact your Information Governance program.

A lot of companies have already started on this journey in one way or another. Many started with archiving email for example. This is where I got my start in Information Governance. I have been working with various email archiving products for nearly eleven years now. As I will explain in future posts, archiving is in the “action” portion of an Information Governance program. We’re starting at what I consider the second stage of Information Governance. But, since that is where a lot of people started, I will discuss archiving and then move back up to the first stage in a future post. Hopefully this resonates with everyone and will provide a better understanding of where archiving fits into the program.

When I started working with archiving products, the main use case was around storage savings. There were also some performance gains that could be realized by reducing the amount of data that was managed by the server, whether it was email or file system data. Let’s focus on email for this post.

As storage became cheaper, and email server architectures changed to the point where performance wasn’t an issue with very large amounts of data, the need for archiving was reduced. When I started working with archiving products, 80% of my discussions with clients were around storage and performance gains. In the last few years that percentage has shifted to nearly 80% around information management, guaranteed retention, and defensible deletion.

Because of this, archiving is going through a major change. In the past, archiving was accomplished by focusing on a target. “Archive all email from this mailbox and retain it for seven years” is a very common policy. With this type of archiving policy, we are treating all data the same. Business critical email and data are being retained for the same amount of time as emails that notify employees that there are donuts in the breakroom. Do we really need to retain everything for the same amount of time?

Archiving is making a shift to more of a content-based solution. This falls in line with the changes that are taking place in the business that I outlined above. Now you may see policies configured such as “Archive all email from this mailbox and set a default retention of 30 days, but if it is an HR document retain it for seven years, if it contains intellectual property retain it for fifteen years”, etc. At that time, retention is automatically assigned and not only is the item retained for the proper amount of time, but it is defensibly deleted automatically when that time expires.

It is important to note this shift in archiving and how it relates to other areas of data and information in your environment. In the next post I will discuss how to move back up a level to discuss what I consider to be the first step in a proper Information Governance program; Gaining Insight.

Today’s background music: