One-stop data shop

Consolidation of resources can put your business ahead of the game, improving access and management, cutting costs and enabling...

Consolidation of resources can put your business ahead of the game, improving access and management, cutting costs and enabling legislative compliance, writes Hamish Macarthur

As we become more dependent on the use of information in our daily work and social lives, the need to ensure that the data is protected, secure and trusted is an increasing challenge to all. Assets of any organisation are measured in different ways; they may appear on the balance sheet in the shape of reserves, stock or investments.

However, two key assets that do not appear on the balance sheet are the value of the employees and that of the information resources, the bedrock on which the business is managed.

Practices and processes around information need to reflect a sound level of management and governance. Whether it is to meet contractual agreements between suppliers and customers or to conform to regulatory reporting requirements or to provide evidence in court, the provenance of the information used must be trusted.

Setting a series of management policies is crucial for effective and secure administration of the system infrastructure. They will aim to identify existing resources, configure them for optimisation and monitor the safe and secure operation of the system. These management policies will also relate to service levels and practices that will protect the data.

In this complex world, the IT director must look at the investments in systems and processes to ensure that they are cost-effective and that they deliver a real benefit to the business. There are practical parameters that have to be considered, such as the cost of the investments and confidence that the new technologies have been tried and tested.

Examining the system infrastructure - its architecture and management - is a key first step that addresses the practical operational considerations. It also enables organisations to buy time to determine how they will manage individual documents and transactions, the information content.

Networking storage resources has proved to be of significant benefit; data can be shared more easily across applications, users have easier access to the data they require and the utilisation of disc arrays and tape libraries increases from 30%-40% to more than 70%.

This process has led companies to consolidate their resources. It has enabled companies to rationalise their IT datacentres, maximise the returns from their networks and better control the vast store of data found throughout the organisation. In the process of consolidation, many benefits have been realised:

  • Data protection practices have been tightened. Back-up windows are reducing rapidly, with more and more users employing Snapshot and disc-mirroring technologies to enable fast recovery from any unplanned outages. The final option is implementing continuous back-up policies and moving away from the strictures of back-up windows.
  • Consolidating the resources on a network or at a site will enable existing support engineers to manage the storage resources effectively across all servers. The flexibility offered when allocating or reallocating storage to specific applications, when the need arises, will result in fewer system outages.
  • This now builds the framework by which a central management regime can be applied across all sites in the organisation. The various sites can be linked with multi-protocol routers and security policies on the transmission of data can be applied. Linking the different sites within an organisation will enhance the data-protection practices and offer cost-effective disaster recovery.
  • Savings can be realised with fewer server-based software licences.
  • System managers and administrators gain job satisfaction as mundane tasks are replaced by automated processes.

A strategy that addresses the system infrastructure is one that will support the business operations on a day-to-day basis. In many cases, this has been shown as the vehicle by which trusted continuous operations can be supported all day, every day. The net outcome is that the information assets are secured and they can be balanced across online and offline resources.

Policies and practices required to manage the infrastructure will enable large volumes of data to be moved and managed judiciously. Once the infrastructure is sound, the business units can determine the data and documents they need to keep for the long term.

Finally documenting this process will show that companies have been diligent in building best practice into their own processes to support the requirements of sound information and corporate governance.

Hamish Macarthur is the founder of IT marketing consultancy Macarthur Stroud International. He is delivering a keynote speech at next week's Storage Expo

This article is part of Computer Weekly's Special Report on storage produced in association with Cisco Systems

Read more on IT strategy