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How information classification can make your big data more valuable - and reduce costs


TRuske.JPG5 questions for HP Senior Solutions Architect Thomas Ruske about information classification and big data


At the main Discover Performance site, our lead article on information management takes a look at “big data,” which continues to be a leading concern for IM leaders. For the article we asked HP Senior Solutions Architect Thomas Ruske for the best defense against big data overload, and he said information classification should be a key focus. “Too much data” becomes a problem when you don’t know what the data is, or what to do with it.


“We’re already observing that people are spending far more time for looking for information than actually using it,” he notes. “Information is kept in so many poorly integrated silos, and our decisions are often based on wrong or partial information.”


Proper classification, he says, prevents the ever-increasing flow of information from swamping the enterprise. You can read more in the article "Don’t Fight Big Data—Control It," but for the blog we asked him a few followup questions on the art of information classification.


Discover Performance: How do you make information classification an enterprise priority?

Thomas Ruske: The true objective of information classification is to identify information optimization opportunities. For simplicity, we’ll define those opportunities relating to cost, value and risk. Once you identified the potential implications on business success of having properly classified your information, it then becomes easier to “sell” the value of this endeavor to the right stakeholders.


Q: What are information classification’s most important tasks or objectives?

While it sounds obvious, the very first question you need to ask yourselves is “why am I doing this?” What’s the point of knowing the value of my information—and by the way, how do I measure value?


Classifying information is about identifying the value of your information to the enterprise. The concept of value classes is pivotal to many IT-related domains and are not unique to information—you will find that many clients have a pre-existing set of value classes for storage, applications, etc. But how are they interconnected? Without knowing the true value of you information asset, how can you effectively and efficiently utilize your IT environment?


DP: Why should organizations dedicate the resources necessary to such a large undertaking?

TR: Enterprises are drowning in information—they can‘t predict their storage growth any longer which goes hand in hand with the predictability of the IT budget. Application performance is slowing down though implemented business processes haven‘t changed. Backup windows are increasing. Not only are we throwing more and more infrastructure at those problems, we’re spending more to operate that more complex environment.


DP: What’s the risk/compliance perspective?

TR: Over the last couple of years, regulatory compliance has become far more than just a buzz word. There is an increasing amount of legislative requirements in relation to information. Which information needs to be kept where and how long, how should we protect our information assets, etc.


While many companies have taken serious actions on those requirements, others followed the approach of “We’ll just keep everything forever.” While this approach might have been appropriate in times where data was not growing at this speed, it can put companies at risk if they keep more information, and longer than they’re actually required to do so. Keeping information is not too difficult, but to retrieve the right information when it’s requested by an audit or for a court case can be challenging and sometimes impossible.


DP: How does well-classified information support good information governance?

TR: Information classification requires the existence of solid governance, and therefore an information classification journey will uncover any weaknesses in your governance policies. You find yourself defining critical issues, such as who owns information and is accountable for it. What needs to be kept, for how long, and how does it need to be delivered? What about preservation or disposal? What are the regulatory requirements? Information management requires a comprehensive approach, one that is far reaching, and impacts and involves a combination of people, process and technology.


Governance often means different things to different people. However, its common objective is the ability to manage an asset effectively and responsibly. While IT governance, a subset discipline of corporate governance, is about the ability to manage information technology assets, information governance, as a subset of IT governance, deals with managing information as an asset with foresight and consideration beyond technology systems and its immediate stakeholders and owners.


In essence, governance can be described as “providing direction.” While governance controls and ensures that the course is being kept, the direction is set by your business goals and strategy. Before you can use a map, you need to know where you’re going.



While we certainly saw his point, we observed that it sounded like a complex undertaking that might be hard to sell to the CIO or enterprise at large. Ruske replied that the cost and effort produce savings in the long run—in terms of efficiencies, optimization of assets, and cost.


“The management of information is only expensive when the value of that information has little or no value to the business,” he said. “That’s why information classification is a cornerstone of information management.”



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I have been a writer/editor in the technology field for several years.

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