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Enterprise Data Storage Management: Records Management and its impact on Storage

The Rising Problem of Retained Data

The Financial Services industry operates in an increasingly complex environment with relation to Information Lifecycle Governance. Organisations have historically been ineffective in managing the ever increasing volumes of data, driven in part by not applying effective records management procedures. In addition to this, when litigation is imminent firms are required to hold all data that could relate. In practice this results in vast quantities of data across the storage landscape, including backup and disaster recovery, never being removed. 

Whilst storage costs per TB are reducing over time, the collective growth in data storage and the inability - or reluctance - to remove legacy information, has led to a net growth in storage costs, a higher risk of violating regulations and potentially larger iconsequences from any information security breaches. 

However, with many financial organisations settling cases and with other major litigation being finalised, now is the right time to consider the next steps to ensure that data can be managed efficiently. It is also the right time to review new technology opportunities such as the Cloud to house data - as they can provide improved functionality to hold meta data, which in turn supports good data governance.

Ultimately, good Information Lifecycle Governance (ILG) is essential if this element of data growth is to be addressed. 

Records Management

One aspect to managing the information lifecycle, and thus a reduction in the volumes of data stored, is the implementation of effective records management practices. Given the historic proclivity to retain all data (retaining seen as less risky than removing), this is a meaningful first step that should be taken across the entire organisation. This will help (a) increase the understanding of data, (b) reduce the volume of retained data, (c) reduce the risk posed by retained data in an organisation. Key steps in this process are to;

  1. Definition of clear Records Management policies, standards and processes: this should include meta data to be held against the various types of data at the point of creation
  2. Tooling to support the operationalisation of Records Management process: this will include tools for discovery, retention, archiving and disposal of records, aggregation and enhancement of meta data, as well as definition of data owners
  3. Clear accountabilities across an organisation: effective records management processes are not owned solely by the Records Management or Data Management group, it is a shared responsibility across the organisation driving the need for collaboration. The business needs to be accountable for the data they create and use, infrastructure teams need to create MI to support the business, while managing the storage platform efficiently, and Records Management or Archiving groups need to ensure the adoption of best practices in relation to the data lifecycle. Senior management across the organisation need to endorse and invest in good practice in this area.

Cost Optimisation through Data Lifecycle Management

Although the cost per TB of storage is reducing by approximately 10% year on year, with data volumes increasing by approximately 30-40% per year, organisations are not positioning themselves to take advantage of cost optimisation opportunities.

Storage and technology infrastructure teams should be actively supporting better records management practices as they have a shared interest in reducing data volumes and optimising organisational infrastructure costs and reducing information and regulatory risk through only retaining the data you need. Detailed MI, meta-data tagging of unstructured data, and a comprehensive archive and backup solution will be the key foundations for a successful implementation.

An efficient information lifecycle governance platform also puts organisations in the best place to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Cloud or new storage infrastructure. Technologies such as O365 can offer functionality which traditional file shares do not - for example. data can be tagged with the relevant meta-data to support records management retention periods, triggers and associated legal jurisdictions. Additionally, the proactive management of data will deliver efficiencies in capacity management and any migrations to new storage platforms.

Records retention activities, a proper archiving capability, and proactive review and disposal processes can be the enabler organisations need to optimise enterprise storage costs and use of storage capacity across their technologies. It is in the interest of all parties to collaborate in implementing effective information management.

Conclusions

This is the right time to actively define and implement a data lifecycle management programme. This will address both future risks around regulatory and legal compliance, operational risk, and cost. Whilst effective records management is not the sole driver to optimising storage, nor indeed of a comprehensive Information Lifecycle Management programme, however it is an important pillar. 

The partnership between the business, technology infrastructure teams and records management/data teams is key to driving better data management. Obtaining buy-in and agreeing responsibilities and authority will build a positive data culture.

Without an active programme, and clear accountability, organisations face exponentially more regulatory and information risk and an unmanageable outlook for their infrastructure costs.  

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