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Information Governance: Looking Beneath the Surface: The Hidden Cost of Managing Legacy Data

on ‎07-16-2014 08:05 AM

I read with great interest the results of an AIIM survey that was released last week, the highlights of which were nicely captured in a blog by John Mancini who is CEO of that organization.  A couple of specific data points that I took away from the survey responses were:

  •  68% of organizations surveyed said the volume of electronic records are “increasing rapidly”
  • Only 12% of respondents feel confident that they store only what they need to store
  • 42% are not confident about what is safe to delete

In other words, the vast majority of organizations are experiencing significant growth in data that must be governed more effectively, but yet few organizations today are truly taking measures to ensure that they keep the important information and dispose of the data that no longer has value.


In an era of tight IT budgets and an increasing awareness that Big Data is quickly becoming an issue that can’t be ignored, how can this be?  How can so many organizations talk about information governance, but so few really do anything about it—particularly with respect to legacy data (structured and unstructured) that has built up over time as a result of a lack of governance policies, M&A, organic growth, and multiple copies being saved across the enterprise? 


I have two theories:


1) Very few are looking at the total costs of managing legacy information

Many organizations we talk to tend to equate the cost of managing information simply to the cost of storage.  In the back of many executives’ minds, they picture a 1TB hard drive at Best Buy costing about US$100—and determine that if storage is cheap, they can keep throwing more storage at the problem.  It’s human nature to make decisions based on the facts in front of you, but in this case there’s some myopia in play that must be guarded against. 


Much like an iceberg floating in the Atlantic, which shows only a small portion of its enormity above the surface, so too are the costs of managing legacy information.  Storage is only one small portion of the total costs.  In the case of managing unstructured information, hardware, software, support, power/cooling, backup/DR, compliance/governance, risk mitigation, and storage management all must be factored into the total cost.


Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) recently completed a study on the total costs of managing unstructured data throughout its lifecycle, and found that – on average – it costs $25 to store a single Gigabyte.  For an organization that manages just a Petabyte of data (1,048,576 GB), this translates to more than $26M in costs over time.  Armed with this TCO analysis, which I haven’t seen elsewhere, I suspect more organizations will start to place a greater emphasis on cleaning up legacy data—as a substantial cost reduction can be achieved by defensibly disposing of even a portion of their information. 


You can download the ESG white paper here


The same myopia afflicts executives looking at managing legacy structured data.  Again storage isn’t the only cost to be taken into account when calculating total costs.  Many of the above also come into play, as well as the costs of keeping many (sometimes thousands of) outdated applications spinning simply in case you need to gain access to this information over time.  Gartner Research obviously has recognized this is a growing problem, and recently published the first-ever Magic Quadrant on Structured Data Archiving and Application Retirement.  In this report, Gartner breaks down the importance of governing legacy structured data as a cost-savings measure. 


2) It’s not clear what tools can be used to solve this problem

When Information Governance first became a buzzword several years ago, many solutions were focused on live (vs. legacy) information and required the implementation of a behemoth platform that took a good deal of time and money before any results were achieved.  Many IT executives still maintain that historical context and thus believe cleaning up legacy data in relatively short order is difficult to achieve.


The truth is, it’s not that difficult anymore, and there are some excellent tools now available in the market to manage legacy information.   Here are two examples from HP, though other good alternatives exist in the market as well: 

  • HP ControlPoint powers our Legacy Data Cleanup solution, which helps organizations access, understand, and classify unstructured information that often resides in email repositories, file shares, and SharePoint sites.  Many ControlPoint users start with the defensible disposition of redundant, obsolete and trivial data (ROT) and then migrate the remaining information to an archiving or records management systems for better access and governance in the future.  
  • HP Structured Data Manager helps organizations access, understand, and classify structured information.  This technology relocates inactive data from expensive production database systems and legacy applications into active repositories where disposition and governance policies can be applied.  It’s also worth noting that this product was just named a market Leader in the aforementioned Gartner Magic Quadrant for this market.  

But perhaps most important, both products can be focused on a small subset of enterprise data—a single data type, repository or department, for example—so organizations can clean up legacy information quickly and without having to go through the hassle of getting everyone from every department and/or business unit to agree on policies and procedure.  This allows for a quick-turn ROI that can be leveraged as business case for future Information Governance projects. 



With data volumes increasing so quickly in the enterprise, there may be a time in the near future where the problem will grow so big that it will become insurmountable.  Further, the cost associated with NOT taking action can be material.  Thus, the time to act is now, and “I’m not sure how to get there” can no longer get in the way of progress. 


Both the ESG and Gartner reports are available for free download.  I suggest you download these impartial reports and share with others in your organization to raise awareness of this important issue and establish yourself as an internal evangelist for realizing significant cost savings through better governance.   With a greater understanding of the problem, armed with the tools to educate others, and access to tools that can help you solve the problem, you can help lead your organization in the right direction in effectively governing information for years to come. 


For more information about legacy data management, watch HP Autonomy’s three-minute video below or visit our Information Governance microsite





Read more from our Information Governance product experts:

Information Governance: HP Named a Leader in Structured Data Archiving and Application Retirement by Becky Arenson

Information Governance: Simplifying Legacy Data Cleanup with HP Autonomy Professional Services by Joe Garber

Information Governance: Spring cleaning for your closets and your structured data by Becky Arenson

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About the Author


Joe Garber is Vice President of Marketing for HPE’s Information Management and Governance business unit – a division of HPE Software. In this role, he leads thought leadership, product messaging and go-to-market efforts for the organization’s Adaptive Backup & Recovery, Information Archiving, Secure Content Management and eDiscovery businesses.

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