Six steps to ILM implementation

Storage tiers that reduce costs and comply with regulatory demands

Many things can spur a company to kick off an ILM project, but two reasons lead all the rest: a desire to implement storage tiers to reduce costs and the need to align corporate IT practices with regulatory compliance demands.

There is no need to do ILM if you do not have to, though the odds are, you do.

First, determine whether your company's data is answerable to regulatory demands. If you work for a U.S. company, this likely means checking out the California Privacy Law Compliance (SB1), Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

If you do business in Europe, also check out Basel II compliance. This is complicated stuff, and no one expects an IT manager to know about it. Immediately set up a meeting with someone in your legal department to discuss this.

Large organizations have compliance officers who are there for this sort of discussion. Be prepared to learn that the list of regulatory requirements above does not begin to scratch the surface.

Second, determine whether your company uses its storage in an optimal manner. If you have lots of data online, some of which is quite old, and if you have only one kind of storage, there's a good chance that high-value and low-value data are intermixed at your site. That's a pretty good indicator that you need to re-examine your storage strategy. Keep in mind that if your shop is run according to service-level agreements and you frequently fall out of conformance with those objectives, something is very wrong.

If either of the above typifies your situation, go on to Stage 2.

Understanding the value of data lies at the heart of ILM, so this raises the question of what do you need to know in order to value the data properly? At the very least, identify the following: file type, users accessing the data and key words used. This can be accomplished only by meeting with the data owners.

First, make a list of regulatory requirements that may apply. Get this from your legal department or compliance office. Don't assume that the people involved in the next step are aware of these requirements. In many cases, they are not. Bring this list with you during the next step.

Second, define stakeholder needs. You must understand what users need and what they consider to be nonnegotiable. Engaging early with the various lines of business helps focus everyone on what is really necessary and sufficient, and puts a human face on IT (sometimes a good idea). The result of such engagements are SLAs that are driven by user requirements and give you a service-level objective, a targeted service level.

Third, verify the data life cycles. Everyone understands that data life cycles are a function of business value, but not everyone can take it from there. In some instances, key players can't even agree on when the data's value to the business shifts. Therefore, verify the value change for each life cycle with at least two other sources, a second source within the department that owns the data (if that is politically impossible, raise the issue through management), and someone familiar with the potential legal issues.

Fourth, define success criteria and get them widely accepted. Useful criteria are simple and easy to understand, and include cost savings, well-defined improvements in application or data availability, improved performance or recoverability and lowered incidences of being out of compliance with SLAs.

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