Many business continuity and risk management planners have covered the topic of information storage – e.g. what data do we save, how and where do we save it, and how quickly and completely can we retrieve it when needed? — as they try to include this critical IT function into their business continuity and disaster recovery plans.    

One of our contributing writers, Don Byrne, has written his take on the subject of data storage and we invite you to read and comment on his article as follows: 

Getting Our Storage “Fix”!

By, Donald Byrne CBCP, CDCP, CBRO-M, Lead Auditor 

While the cost of data storage continues to drop at an amazing rate, the world’s appetite for this commodity is growing at a phenomenal 60% per year according to a recent study by the research group IDC. and entitled, “Storage is a Narcotic”. 

The more you get the more you want,” says Greg Kenley, a leading data management expert. Kenley points out that the amount of information being generated is truly staggering. Each week, the New York Times contains as much information as a typical 18th century adult would have been exposed to over the course of an entire lifetime. 

Today, more information is generated in one year than was discovered in the previous five thousand and the pace of knowledge creation in some disciplines grows at near exponential rates. For example, scientific discoveries, engineering breakthroughs, medical advances, and other technological insights more than double every year. 

Much of this knowledge explosion can be traced to the near ubiquitous nature of the Internet and its place in the fabric of our lives. Consider that in 1984 there were approximately 1,000 devices connected to an early version of the World Wide Web. By 1992 that number had grown one thousand-fold to 1,000,000 and by 2008 it increased to 1,000,000,000 devices. With widespread access comes increased usage. Consider, Google estimates that there are now 31 billion online searches conducted every month. In 2006, that number was 2.7 billion – an eleven-fold increase in three years! 

So what is happening to all this information? 

Much of it is ephemeral such as the three billion text messages sent every day. Few people have a need or interest in keeping a record of these highly abbreviated exchanges. But enough of the information is deemed worthy of filing that the storage market continues to grow seemingly without bounds. In 2010 over four exabytes (or 4,000,000,000 gigabytes) of unique information will be generated and much of it will be retained. 

Incredibly, unique material may represent only one-third of the total information stored online; implying that two-thirds of computer disks are filled with redundant material, rarely accessed and often outdated. It seems that most humans are data hoarders and have much in common with the unfortunates whose compulsion to retain material eventually can crowd them out of their homes. 

Perhaps it is in our nature to be storage junkies who clutter our online lives with redundant data and obsolete files. Just as narcotic addicts need enablers to help them support their habit, technology continues to deliver lower cost/high capacity devices that allow us to continue our “bad habit” without fear of exposure. Need another five hundred gigabytes? No problem, simply drop into any shopping mall and for less than $100, you can get your storage fix. 

Will these technical advances eventually cause us to change our attitudes toward what constitutes good and bad storage behavior? Is it time to rethink our view of storage ethics and not view data hoarding as bad behavior but rather something akin to antique collecting? 

Maybe we should reverse the question and ask “What is wrong with keeping one or more copies of everything we ever wrote, read, saw, photographed, or thought?” If it is now technically feasible never to have to delete any bit of information that you create, send or receive, why not do it? 

Of course such a decision does lead to a different and currently more difficult question. If you kept everything you ever created, how would you find anything? Let me suggest we leave that question to be answered by whatever company eventually succeeds search engine giant Google.

For now, I would be content to find all my tax information.

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