Your Unstructured Data Is Sexy – You Just Don’t Know It

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The challenge in making your unstructured data sexy lies in how you manage it.  In this article, the Headwaters Group share their approach to managing unstructured data in a way that reduces the cost of storing and protecting data, consolidates silos to streamline management, mitigates risk, and makes IT more agile.

Understanding the kind of data you have, and when or if it’s being accessed, is the first step in effectively designing your unstructured data strategy. As a “vendor agnostic” storage consulting firm, Headwaters Group has no hardware agenda.  But, what we do have is a senior team of sophisticated consultants with an extensive background in assessing unstructured data environments as well as working with and implementing object storage technology solutions across multiple vendor platforms.

As the amount of unstructured data expands, so does complexity and cost.  Industry analysts agree that by using advanced storage technologies, organizations can leverage insights gleaned from unstructured data to gain a competitive advantage.

Here’s what leading analysts say about unstructured data growth:

  • IDG: Unstructured data is growing at the rate of 62% per year.
  • IDG: By 2022, 93% of all data in the digital universe was unstructured.
  • Gartner: Data volume is set to grow 800% over the next 5 years and 80% of it will reside as unstructured data.

Two Big Challenges of Unstructured Data Management: Distributed IT and Increased Regulations

Distributed IT:  Modern data centers are struggling to keep up with the growth of unstructured data, stay within budget, optimize investments and deliver necessary services quickly.  Why?  Because distributed IT environments consist of several branches or remote locations and utilize cloud deployments which create an increased demand for more IT engineering and hardware resources.

The traditional approach of increasing capacity to manage this growth has proved to be costly and unviable. Companies facing these challenges today have to move from traditional solutions toward finding new ways to store content and manage the surplus of unstructured data being used throughout every portion of a distributed IT environment.

Storing pertinent data at multiple sites and through public cloud deployments increases IT challenges and risk. How can organizations effectively store and manage information securely when the amount of unstructured data continues to grow faster than most companies can even measure? As a result, data center resources become fragmented, local storage is not efficiently planned or utilized and is uncontrollably spread across multiple storage devices in the least cost efficient manner.

Increased Data Regulation / Compliance:  There are potentially thousands of pieces of legislation impacting companies. This regulation is constantly evolving and varies across markets and industries, making compliance more difficult, especially for businesses that must comply with eDiscovery requirements.

Both mid-sized to large enterprises across increasingly heavily regulated industries, ranging from banking, finance, healthcare, and retail, are working with key stakeholders across their businesses to understand the mandates and create organization-wide task-forces to tackle them. The alternative is to watch data management costs skyrocket and potentially face huge fines and / or long-term damage to business reputation.

Until now, business and government entities have had a fairly well-defined set of sources of information to manage in traditional applications running databases, or, in other words, “structured content.” However, the expansion of numerous unstructured data types have made it more difficult for organizations to control this information. Unstructured content includes items such as rich media, images, legal documents, medical records, mobile content, and web pages. Common vendor tools and methods used to manage structured data are just not an acceptable solution for unstructured data as they simply do not work.

Object Based Storage Platform: Intelligent and Sexy

Object based storage is a storage architecture that manages data as objects, as opposed to other storage architectures like file systems which manage data as a file hierarchy and block storage which manages data as blocks within sectors and tracks.   Building an object store is a proven option for effectively addressing the challenges experienced when managing extensive amounts of fixed content.

An object store is a data container capable of storing files and metadata about the files, which consists of the attributes for the actual data being stored. Data can consist of email, presentations, spreadsheets, images and other items. The metadata provides information about the structure, definition, and administration qualities of the stored data.  As opposed to the old method of block-storage, object stores provide an intelligent approach to moving data, managing available space, and maintaining security.

By using object stores, discrete objects can be moved or distinguished based on system knowledge of the data or metadata. It provides an IT department the ability to create or delete objects, write and read from individual objects, and acquire attributes or metadata on an object regardless of its location. When using object stores over traditional block-based storage, companies are able to apply retention policies for individual object management and increase security through additional replication and protection settings. Distributed object storage solutions allow enterprises to overcome known IT challenges as well as be better prepared for future hurdles.

Elements of an Object Storage Platform

Of the many options offered to companies as a solution to management of unstructured data within a distributed IT environment, storage systems consisting of these features have the most to offer:

  • Object-Based Storage
  • Object Structure
  • Distributed Design
  • Open Architecture
  • Multitenancy
  • Object Versioning
  • Spin-Down Disk Support
  • Storage Tiering
  • Search and Replication

A solid object based storage platform with these qualities is capable of supporting the needs of companies managing large-scale repositories of unstructured content or data. It can be used by IT organizations or cloud services providers to properly store, manage, protect, and retrieve unstructured data through one storage platform with the scalability and levels of services needed by distributed IT environments today.

The First Step: Use File Analytics to Gain Visibility and Control of Your Unstructured Data

A significant amount of your data exists as files such as emails, documents and digital media. While many of these files are critical to the enterprise, countless others are duplicates, stale, or worse yet, inappropriate and non-compliant. Many organizations don’t know what file content they have, how much exists, who created it, what resources it is consuming and how much is duplicated in multiple locations. To discover how Boldon James Classifier can help you take control of your unstructured data, and aid your compliance with multiple global regulations, get in touch with us today.

This post was originally posted on the Headwaters Group website here.