What is the value of your data?

All data is not created equal. Some start out being of the utmost value, for example accounts payable files, or data that contributes to the success of current projects, or information that defines a point-of-sale transaction. Some data, marketing materials perhaps, or anything defined as "nonbusiness-critical", is valuable, but is of lesser relative importance. And some - most MP3 files and the file that holds the info about the office footy tipping competition come to mind, but you all probably have your own favorite examples - may have no worth at all as far as the company's business is concerned.

Even if all data were created equal however, experience shows that its value often changes relative to other data in the system. As data ages, its importance to a company typically changes. What that change will be depends on individual circumstances, but while we generally assume that most information diminishes in worth over time, it is also quite conceivable that at least some data will increase in value.

I raise this point because not paying attention to the changing value of the data you store can have profound effects on the quality of the IT services you can provide in these times of both tight budgets and demands for increased service levels.

Consider backup and recovery, paired services that historically have been defined as one of a company's most important functions. If your staff cannot back up all changed data within the prescribed maintenance window, as a manager you are faced with making one of two losing decisions. Your first option is to end the backup - but without finishing the process and backing up all the delta blocks, you run the risk of being asked to recover something you never backed up in the first place. This has often proven to be a pretty significant challenge.

Your second choice is to continue the backup until it completes successfully - but by going beyond the back-up window you risk impacting the business processes that rely on those systems. I assure you that degrading performance on a system that supports the sales process is really not the best reason to get introduced to your company's vice president of sales.

Clearly, neither solution scores you points with the users, or with your own management.

A key point here is that it makes no sense at all to back up data just because it has changed from its previous state. After all, if the data itself is not of value to your company why expend time and resource to protect it? Conversely, it makes lots of sense to protect all changed data that does have value.

How do we learn the value of data so that we can understand which data is likely to deserve a particular level of service? The answer to this particular question has a lot more to do with efficient IT planning than it does with acquiring more assets so you can back up more and more data. Let's begin to look at that next time.

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