Work/life or life/work balance?
Whenever I hear the term ?work/life balance' it's always in the context of how work encroaches on people's personal lives. However, for many of the businesses and IT chiefs we talk to, the balance is starting to shift in the other direction as large amounts of personal data enters the workplace. Consumer technology is now more prevalent in our lives than ever before - from the electronics and gadgets we all carry, to the social networking websites like YouTube and MySpace that many of us use regularly. The problem is that many of us use our work resources to use these devices and sites and as a result, the amount of non-work related data on work systems is increasing at an incredible rate. I have a feeling, certainly in the context of IT, the ?work/life' balance will soon take on a whole new meaning.
Personal data footprint
To put this in context, the average office worker owns a mobile phone, an MP3 player and a digital camera. Taking a middle of the range model for each, the phone is capable of storing 70MB , the MP3 player 30GB and the camera 1GB - amounting to a reasonably sizeable personal data footprint of 31.7GB per person. Using London as an example, there are around 311,000 people working in the City of London and so the amount of personal data that could be stored on company systems in the city is 9,858,700GB. With running and maintenance costs this equates to around £395 million, which of course does not even account for the cost to the environment from the use of all this extra energy.
Don't be duped
The problem does not just stop with each employee storing nearly 40GB of personal data onto his or her computer. The real threat comes with the duplication of this data. We all get them from time to time: those emails from fellow coworkers that include pictures of your boss's newborn and viral videos of a cat attacking its own reflection in a mirror. You open the attachments, save them to your work computer, and then forward them on to five other friends in your division so that you can all share a chuckle together. Little did you know that this act may cost your company thousands of pounds a year in storage consumption as one file is duplicated five times, stored five times and backed up five times. In effect one file is now costing the company five times as much as it should.
So what should be done?
So why isn't everyone buying the tools necessary to take control of unstructured files and reduce storage costs? Many businesses continue to solve the problem by throwing money at more storage capacity. Storage hardware is cheap but this short-term solution is just putting a band-aid/plaster on a gaping wound. Unstructured data-mountains are growing rapidly and soon it will not be the cost of storage hardware, but the cost of powering it that will become the issue.
The problem could be solved by employers forbidding their staff from storing personal data on the system, imposing rigid checks and severe punishments. But few businesses that we speak to want to take such draconian measures and understand that in the quest for establishing a ?work/life' balance, there has to be a little give and take along the way.
The important thing is to ensure personal data is stored in the right way. Network file control software makes it possible to scrutinise each file as it's created, analyse exactly what it contains, who wrote it, how important it is to the business and subsequently where it should be stored. Only by having the means to classify precisely what information you are dealing with, it is then possible to set policies that allow you to store that data in the correct and most cost effective way. You don't want to save jpgs from an employee's holiday on expensive media more suited for confidential information and business critical documents.
Information sharing is the life-blood of most companies, but that doesn't mean we cannot control the way we share it. The good news is that with the right tools in place, the costs can be turned into savings. Analysts agree that through implementing de-duplication tools alone, that is making sure files are only stored once on a system, a company can save 20 ? 40% on their storage costs.
Employees' personal data footprints are only going to get bigger as life becomes increasingly digitized. Businesses must ensure they have the tools in place to stop their storage environments getting walked all over.
Tags: Cloud Storage, Compliance, Deduplication, Disk/RAID/Tape/SSDs, Tiered Storage, Data Centres