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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: October 2008

Data confusion

October 2008
Simon Dingle

Analysts and industry experts agree that the world is in for an information explosion. Is your infrastructure ready to take the load?

Storage is about more than just having the physical capacity for your data. Stored data is useless if it can not be used to extract useful information. It is not surprising that we all generate more data today than ever before, and that our needs for storage are growing exponentially – but predictions for the future are startling. The world is gearing up for an information explosion.
“The dynamics are changing,” says William Raftery, senior vice president of EMC Global Product Sales who was in SA recently. “Thousands of bytes of data are generated every second and the rate increases exponentially from one month to the next. Are organisations ready for the information explosion?”
Confusion is rife when it comes to data. Who is responsible for what and where does the buck stop in terms of compliance?
“The role of the CFO is different today from what it was years ago,” explains Raftery. “The CFO used to report finances. Now they are strategic partners to the CEO, driving compliance and security issues. Then the CIO is the person carrying the burden of the organisation’s information load, but does not have the relevant portfolio.”
The first element of the confusion is in determining information roles in terms of whom is responsible for what.
The new information economy
We are entering the next phase in terms of data usage and storage. In this new paradigm information is the be all and end all of business. Compliance drives coherent storage and cataloguing of data. This new information economy is driven by accountability. It will also hail the end of disorganised data.
“85% of the world’s information is unstructured,” says Raftery. “If your information is not structured how do you know what is critical and what is junk – and how do you extract value?”
“This is part of the reason a new information systems strategy is being built around the new information economy. It is about who is accountable,” affirms Raftery. “But it is also about doing more with less. It is still about TCO and ROI. But added to this is risk avoidance. And, of course, how to extract value from information.”
In terms of South Africa, Raftery says that local challenges closely reflect those of international companies. “I speak to South African businesses and I hear the same questions I do in the rest of the world,” he states.
And if the questions are the same, then so are the answers.
Make that info matter
According to Raftery, the first step in organising information and gearing it for value is in turning around and looking at the business itself; assessing business units, processes and looking at the process of information lifecycle management.
“Next phase involves securing information,” he says. “It is no longer about peripheral security. Technologies need to be built in at the storage device level to look after the data it houses.”
“With security in place, we can now look at building policy and classification. Who gets to do what internally? And how can we eliminate security breaches?”
Raftery uses the example of a Boston company that lost the details of 40 million American credit cards due to a physical security breach. But do not think that smaller and medium sized businesses can afford to let down their guard either.
Data loss prevention can be implemented at a technology level, but workflow must be addressed too so that encryption and other methodologies can be implemented along the workflow path.
“Look at the top 10 priorities of the modern CIO and you will find storage is number one, followed by virtualisation and then security,” says Raftery.
And when those three come together we get a glimpse of the shape that storage solutions are starting to take.
Opinion
A majority of the world’s data is unstructured and disorganised. And we are generating exponentially more of the stuff everyday. Virtualisation and security solutions are offering new frameworks for storing information, but the real question is not where you store data, but how you store it to ensure that it can be used to provide valuable information. A new information economy is emerging, and in this paradigm your business must be physically geared for value, with the help of technology to unlock that value.


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