Stack and store

Some organizations have chosen to outsource their data storage and work on specified backup schedules to suit their business needs. Others have insourced data hardware and software management tools on site rather than risk piping it out.

If concerns about protection and recovery aren't enough to keep you busy, IDC analyst Graham Penn says IT execs - in relation to storage planning - should act now to plan for the issues advanced technology will bring to data in the next seven to 10 years.

Penn, director of Asia Pacific storage research, said while technology advances and changes will not only make data storage safer and more reliable also have the potential to render all data worthless if it is stored via media that become outdated, unless hardware is 'refreshed'.

"But the thing that keeps IT execs awake most, aside from handling large volumes of data, is how to protect the crown jewels, avoid disaster and recover data if a disaster may happen," Penn said.

"Two or three years ago security service providers were all the rage, and a flavour of the month for about nine months. The concept didn't take off because users were concerned about keeping data under their control but some organizations in the region decided that data management was not their business, but [many] organizations are now prepared to outsource their data and data management.

"In the dotcom boom, the people initially pushing the data management line were startups with no track record; organizations were concerned about whether or not they'd be around in 12 months time and how, if the receivers came in and puts locks on the door, they were going to access their data."

Obsolete technology

Penn said the critical issue surrounding storage for IT managers is the fact that some technologies in use now simply will not be around in 10 years and an organization serious about not only accessing and storing archival data must regularly refresh their technology and file formats. "It is no good getting to 2010 and deciding to migrate data onto a new format because technologies become obsolete - you need to build in long-term planning to migrate data from one system to migrate to the next-generation system.

"Storage refresh is generally on a seven- or 10- year cycle, but beyond that systems change - the more aware organizations are already doing it, but those without huge budgets will have problems."

Purchasing disk arrays when an organization neared data capacity used to be the method of keeping track of stored data; however, cost, combined with ease of use, has paved the way for in-house data management.

While outsourcing data hosting is now big business in Australia, due in part to technology refresh issues, simple e-mail management is an area that is of concern to many companies. It is gaining a lot of traction as a way to ensure that all professional correspondence is both stored safely in-house and meets legislative requirements such as - for government bodies - the NSW State Records Act. This requires that records, including e-mail, need to be stored for up to seven years. In the private sector some industries - such as banking - must hold records for much longer periods than seven years.

Data, in the form of e-mail, is the biggest area of contention for IT managers. Not only has demand from regulators and governance requirements created a legal minefield, but pushed e-mail storage to the top of the list and many companies are considering in-house solutions rather than using a data hosting services.

Eyeing the growth in the e-mail storage sector, EMC this month launched Legato EmailXtender software, combined with the DatabaseXtender and the Express Solution for e-mail.

The Legato EmailXtender is a centralized data storage and retrieval solution which applies user-defined policies to automatically move data off the e-mail message server and into an e-mail archival system, capturing and indexing all incoming and outgoing messages, an EMC spokesman said.

The DatabaseXtender provides organizations with a way to automatically identify and relocate inactive data in a database to secondary storage and the Express Solution for e-mail allows correspondence from hundreds to several thousand enterprise e-mail users to merge years of messages on a single, networked storage system, the spokesman said.

According to research conducted by the Australian Communications Authority, 47 percent of organizations state that managing e-mail is their biggest problem, and that 60 percent of a company's intellectual property (IP) is located in the e-mail system.

Too frequently, e-mail inboxes in enterprises are used as default personal filing systems rather than recognition being given to the potential importance of e-mail and in some instances as mission-critical documents, EMC's national product manager, Clive Gold, said.

"Organizations are running their businesses through e-mail and Xtender gives a view into the file systems; instead of keeping that information on mission-critical systems it can be an archival job with in-house procedures and policies for recovering data," Gold said.

That means the primary mail storage system is a lot smaller and can be remotely mirrored.

"If a user needs to retrieve information, Xtender takes a snapshot of the system every hour or two, so a user can bring it back in a matter of minutes through clicking on an icon. This disaster recovery process is about making e-mails more reliable."

Data hosting firms are not the least perturbed about systems that enable e-mail to be archived in-house, with one firm agreeing with Gold that e-mail is in fact "the new notebook".

Adrian Bogatez, managing director for Sydney-based data hosting and disaster recovery firm Classic Blue, said a lot of critical information is kept via e-mail; however, the growth in, and subsequent management of the data has led some organizations to consider outsourcing storage and disaster recovery.

"Most organizations are under pressure to deliver data back to end users quickly after a disruption, either as a business or a regulator necessity," Bogatez said.

"They have realized that in order to achieve that they have to have their data stored elsewhere because they may not have the luxury of a remote site."

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