Electronic feng shui or minimalism is the last thing on the IT director’s mind as burgeoning regulation requires long-term storage of ever more information – much of it inevitably trivial.“
You should keep that, it might come in useless sometime” is an old joke that will resonate with many an IT executive wrestling with the data storage monster.
As our article on page 44 makes clear, e-mail is only the tip of the iceberg as developments in digital communications such as the spread of internet telephonymake voicemails and even phone conversations ripe for storage mania.
Of course, that’s before we get on to more sophisticated communications such as videomails and teleconferencing.
Suppliers of storage systems will point proudly to compression techniques that mean that even the most verbose communicator can have their words preserved for posterity in a relatively small amount of space.
But when those small amounts of space are multiplied towards infinity by either the demands of the regulators or the hope that all this communication will have some future business use, data retention becomes a ravenous beast devouring resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
In the face of growing mountains of data, the development of more effective search and access becomes crucial. The opinion column on page 38 points out the problem and offers some hope of technical solutions in the pipeline.
But ultimately the challenge of data retention is a human, not technical, one. At what point does data retention switch from wise husbandry to pointless control freakery which leaves us mired in electronic clutter? We need to decide and then create more effective criteria for what we need to retain.