Thought for the day: Declutter your data

Are you about to spend even more money on storage? Have a thorough clearout before you part with a chunk of your hard-won budget,...

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Are you about to spend even more money on storage? Have a thorough clearout before you part with a chunk of your hard-won budget, advises Jim Lee.



We humans love to hoard things, saving objects for sentimental reasons or because they might be useful somewhere down the road.

This inability to part with things has spilled over into our computers. Buying computers with ever larger hard drives because we fear purging our old documents, untimely spreadsheets and other rarely accessed data.

Data hoarding has also become a way of life for businesses. Data is needed to make business decisions, resolve customer complaints, and comply with data retention mandates to avoid costly penalties.

Before we know it, more storage must be purchased, searching data takes forever and systems run slower. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) of Europe reported in its annual storage audit that a third of the respondents said their requirements had grown by 100% or more in the previous 12 months.

We have all this data, all this information stuffed out there in our multigigabyte file cabinets. All of it precious, all of it needed forever, all of it valuable. But is it?

Over time, the value of data to an organisation changes. Not all of it has to remain online, accessible in real time. Some of it is no longer needed and should be deleted, not saved.   A lot is historical, you save it because you have to.

Businesses have adopted many strategies to deal with ballooning volumes of data. Sometimes, just getting a bigger server and more storage is the easiest solution. However, as time goes on, more budget must be allocated for storage upgrades.

What is needed is a real cleaning of the closets. Data should be analysed as to what is current, what is old but must be saved, and what can be purged.  Once the data is sorted, rarely accessed data can be moved to an archive.  Archiving, as a strategy, is a common sense approach.

However, we now encounter the final problem in paring down our data hoard: access to that archived data. For non-database files, data access may not present a problem. Searching the archived data could take time but the data returned would be accurate.

Relational databases are much more complex to archive. They have relationships that must remain intact or else you risk losing the business context of your data.

Active archiving, a proven strategy, provides the best solution for housekeeping. Unlike traditional archiving, active archiving culls data from relational databases, simultaneously capturing the records to be archived, along with the database associations and other essential metadata.

You can store archived data cost effectively, using the storage medium of choice, while still retaining access to your archived data, all relationships intact. Once archived, the rarely accessed data can be removed. With a more manageable database size, system performance improves immediately.

If you’re finding that you don’t have room to store another byte, consider cleaning your database as your first option.

What do you think?

How do you deal with data hoarding? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Jim Lee is vice president of product marketing at Princeton Softech. He will be speaking at Storage Expo 2003, which takes place at Olympia London from 15-16 October 2003. 

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