How You Can Store Smarter Using Information Lifecycle Management

Tax time is always a stark reminder regarding your personal organization system. Sometimes half the battle is knowing where all the documents are that you need to file. Maybe you keep your receipts and records from the past year nearby, in a desk drawer. Meanwhile, your tax return papers from the last couple of years are a box in the attic, if you prefer the analog version. More still, you might keep other, older documents in a storage locker across town, just in case you ever need them again.

What do your tax forms have to do with cloud storage? In both cases, the way your information is used should determine where it is kept and maintained: things that need to be more readily available are closer, and more easily accessible. You probably don’t keep your personal tax returns from 15 years ago on top of your desk, handy at all times. But this may be just the way your business is approaching the storage of data at your organization. A one-size-fits-all approach to storage could be costing you in both performance and dollars.

Looking at the line items for your business data retention, maybe you’re saying to yourself that it seems too expensive and you want to reduce cost. Or, maybe you’re wondering if you need to pay for it at all. At this point you have two choices: adjust your business requirements for your data or adjust your data storage method. Looking at your business needs will dictate which path you choose.

It’s important to be strategic about how a business handles its storage options. So, before going any further, first consider adopting a simple, but incredibly effective concept: information lifecycle management (ILM). What is ILM, why is it important, and how does NFINIT approach it? Let’s dive in.

The Information Lifecycle Management Basics

Many organizations store all data on the same tier, meaning all the data is assigned the same value and stored in the same way, often in the same place. This type of configuration usually comes from a lack of analysis concerning how data is used in an organization. Some aren’t closely monitoring how much they are paying for storage and are overspending on high performance storage for certain data that isn’t accessed often. Others store all their data using a low performance storage method, putting even their most important information where it cannot be accessed easily or quickly. This is where information lifecycle management comes in.

ILM is all about being deliberate with using strategic, tiered data storage. The core principle is placing various pieces of information on different media according to the data's criticality, the cost of the media, accessibility requirements, and required performance level. ILM can have any number of tiers, depending on your needs.

In many instances, finance-focused team members may not understand the how of data storage, where IT-focused team members may not understand the why. When properly implemented, ILM can serve as the perfect bridge between the two. 

Information Lifecycle Management In Practice

Let’s take a look at an example of one way that ILM could be implemented to better suit a business’ storage needs:

ILM

As a general rule, when data increases, the probability of access over time decreases. There are many different criteria by which to build ILM tiers, but this team has prioritized their usage rates and accessibility requirements to build three storage tiers to match. First, there is the critical access tier, which the company in question has chosen to characterize by immediate accessibility to enable easy, efficient job management. The company in question has chosen block storage for this tier. Next, there is the occasional access tier, meant for long-term data retention. Data moves here when it ages out of the business’ operational window. This tier utilizes object storage, a much less expensive choice than block storage that greatly reduces long-term costs. Finally, there’s the archive tier using a low-cost, low accessibility global file system. The purpose of this tier is primarily business criticality, and the data here is only used to meet regulatory compliance for industry requirements such as SOC, HIPAA, or PCI.

Keep in mind that the above illustration is only an example of one way ILM could be implemented in one instance. There is no one-size-fits-all model, and a company’s ILM tiers could involve an array of storage methods, including:

  • DAS
  • NAS
  • VTL
  • block
  • cloud
  • geo-dispersed
  • object
  • onsite
  • tape

Information Lifecycle Management: Always A Custom Job

So what’s best for you and your storage needs?

Each company needs to apply a bespoke information lifecycle management process based on their unique situation. Often, companies become too focused on using certain products – Dropbox, OneDrive, public cloud, hybrid cloud – instead of identifying needs and finding a tool that meets that purpose. You might want to use these storage methods for certain applications, but you need to know how, why, and what the impacts are. After all, like all technology, data storage methods themselves don’t serve a purpose on their own – they only maximize their effectiveness in the context of meeting a goal that a team is trying to achieve. Even within one organization, multiple separate ILM strategies should be employed for different departments and IT systems to make sure all company processes are being met with an appropriate storage solution.

Assessing where storage tiers should start and end can be tricky, and it’s often best to seek the advice of a professional before a question becomes a problem. Here at NFINIT we’ve helped many different companies implement many different ILM strategies, and we’re here to help you too.

Now, where are those 2014 W-2s again? 



Walter Horton, Director of Cloud and Network Infrastructure, is responsible for the infrastructure supporting NFINIT's could and network services, ensuring that they are resilient and highly available for our client's critical applications

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