With the significant increase of data over the past years and a prediction of it multiplying ten times by 2020, Intelligent SME catches up with Sofocles Socratous, Vice President EMEA, Seagate to understand how SME’s across the Middle East can become smarter in managing and storing their digital assets and reduce the overall cost of storage.
We live in a world of technological abundance. Today everyone has a computer not just in their homes and in their offices, but in their pockets too. We create not just documents and spreadsheets but photos and videos in uncountable numbers. Even inanimate objects are now networked together, sharing data and creating knowledge from apparently mundane sources. Technology and the data it creates are deeply embedded in every aspect of our lives, to the point where it is becoming almost invisible. Just like electricity or water, it is just there when we need it.
So it comes as something of a shock to realize that one of our most valuable technical resources is running out – data storage. In 2013, the world generated around 3.5 zettabytes of data, the equivalent of 120 billion 32-gigabyte smartphones, or 600 billion DVDs. To put another way, it was more than 3 billion years of video! By 2020, we will be creating more than ten times that amount of data. Unfortunately for us, we’re going to run into trouble long before then. By 2016, estimates show that we will be producing data faster than we can store it. The bottom line is that in less than two years, the digital abundance we all take for granted will start to become a drought.
Bridging the so-called capacity gap between the volume of data we produce and the amount we can easily store is no easy task. Data grows much faster than our ability to manufacture the hard drives to keep it on. Even with hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in new factories, the projected data figures are so extreme that we have no realistic chance of outrunning them with existing hard drive technology. While there are new storage technologies in development which promise to dramatically increase the density of information that can be stored on physical drives, they are still years away from practical deployment. And even they won’t be able to cope with all the data we’re currently creating.
The hard truth is that we may all need to go on a “data diet”. Whether we are small businesses or large one, content consumers or media creators, we need to be smarter about the way that we manage and store digital assets.
What does a “data diet” look like? The critical thing for businesses to think about is what data they really need. Today, most companies’ hard drives are populated not just with business-critical information such as databases, spreadsheets and business documentation but littered with non-essential data too; everything from old email archives and attachments to personal staff photos and videos. Managing this data explosion is non-trivial, but it will pay dividends in the near future as storage becomes a scarcer resource and businesses look for ways to reduce its overall cost.
The Seagate Data Diet: 5 tips for smarter storage
Stop taking storage for granted. Educate the workforce about the need for smarter thinking about what data you keep and why; help them understand that this is not a draconian move to make their lives harder, but a business-critical issue that needs immediate attention.
Develop a data policy
Work with the IT team to create a policy that outlines what kind of data can and can’t be stored on hard drives, and what employees can and can’t save to the network. Such policies are easily enforced with existing technology, both at the network and storage level; even the simplest NAS devices allow quotas to be set for each user, thus forcing them to think harder about what they really need to save.
Spring-clean your systems
Even the most routine of investigations inevitably reveals the scale of the problem for most businesses. Many tools are available for scanning hard drives and graphically displaying their contents, making it easy to decide what you need and what can be safely discarded. Similarly, email management tools help to identify old and outdated attachments, enabling businesses to clear large volumes of disk space quickly.
Most businesses keep multiple copies of documents, especially content-heavy files such as slide decks. Develop policies that prevent duplication of files, and that encourage centralized collaborative approaches rather than the fragmented models currently in place.
Manage backups more effectively
Determine how many backups you really need, both for operational and regulatory purposes. Backing up data is essential and must be done carefully, but it must also be done sensibly; there’s no point in keeping old data for the sake of it. Make sure that you keep the data that you need to restore your business in the event of a serious problem, and no more.