The story of unstructured file data

Where did it all come from ?

Icebergs are a useful analogy when considering storage growth – particularly regarding unstructured data. It comes down to a question of visibility.

Only around 10 percent of icebergs are visible above the waterline. Below the surface, they plummet down to such massive depths that only purpose-built, reinforced ice-breaker ships dare navigate through them.

Unstructured storage growth works in a similar way. The amount of data visible to the businesses we work with is typically a fraction of the whole. Indeed, it’s rare that an organisation today has a clear grasp on just how much data they’re unwittingly carrying with them, much less where that data is, how often it’s accessed and its ultimate value to the business. Even if they do have an accurate idea of where this data resides, there’s a notable lack of available tools powerful enough to do anything about it.

These problems of visibility are compounded by the capacity-based storage pricing models businesses are subject to.

Storage itself might be getting cheaper, but the cumulative management costs incurred as a result of using more of it negate any supposed savings.

The trends of inexorable data growth and falling storage prices must be contextualised against the backdrop of the past half-decade. As belts tightened and budgets fell, the great economic downturn fundamentally changed our expectations of what IT must do. Technology became the great economiser – the engine driving efforts to do more with less.

For storage, this means every GB is supposed to provide demonstrable value for the business. Achieving this with unstructured data, much of which is invisible, obviously presents a problem.

Add to this the increasing importance of information governance in the compliance-driven digital world we live in, and the lack of visibility becomes harder to ignore. How can businesses (particularly those in highly regulated industries) insulate themselves from punitive risks when between 70-80% of enterprise data today is unstructured?

Well, we can’t suggest a solution to the problem without knowing the causes. It’s important to remember that this data didn’t appear overnight. Unstructured data is just information that exists outside of database systems – mostly file data. Up until recently it’s been relatively easy to ignore.

However, file sizes are increasing. Rich media content such as photos, audio and HD video now permeate file stores across the organisation, not just in marketing and design drives. Rather than spend time investigating the cause of this growth, many businesses are instead throwing storage at the problem. Whilst this might be easier in the short term, it’s not a sustainable solution.

Whilst file sizes might be the cause, they aren’t the culprit. For that, we only need to turn to users. In our experience, they don’t care about storage management. Why should they? Their primary concern is having the information and documents they need to work effectively instantly available to them. If this leads to data duplication and storage growth, well, that’s just collateral damage.

The unfortunate irony is that if users had a greater visibility into the data they use and create, they might be compelled to employ better data management practices for their own convenience. But so long as those tools are not available, the situation tends to deteriorate.

The early retail tycoon John Wanamaker said in 1919

I am convinced that about one-half of the money I spend for advertising is wasted, but I have never been able to decide which half.

A pioneer of modern marketing, John no doubt understood the value of insight and analysis in decision making.

How might businesses today with 20TB of data establish which 10TB had value and which 10TB was unused, extraneous junk?

Businesses need more effective tools to:

  • Distinguish the valuable data from the not valuable
  • Make the ongoing management of that data easier for everyone
  • Deploy archiving strategies which future-proof the good practices the tool enables

We built Kazoup to halt the torrent of unstructured data and help businesses wrest back control over their storage. To find out how it works, and to get started for free, try it