Implementing effective information lifecycle management

27 July 2015 Karan Vidal

Businesses need to come up with more and more ingenious ways to store data. They’re faced with a barrage of information that needs to be classified, stored and managed for better efficiency and to satisfy the regulators.

The need to handle data properly for compliance is getting more important. The task of sorting out mountains of information at a reasonable cost can be akin to ants moving a boulder. Information lifecycle management (ILM) processes and products automate the storage and organisation of data. ILM can be both a lifeboat and a salve for any data woes.

Benefits of ILM

ILM does more than just satisfy the regulators. It can also:

  • Make staff more productive as they save time when accessing information.
  • Reduce IT infrastructure cost as the storage environment is used more efficiently.
  • Result in better risk management due to the ability to respond to new compliance measures quicker.

ILM or DLM

Data life cycle management (DLM) is a close relative of ILM. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably but there’s a difference.

Karen Dutch, ex vice-president of product management at Fujitsu Softek explains that:

“DLM products deal with general attributes of files, such as their type, size, and age; ILM products have more complex capabilities.”

In basic terms, DLM products allow information to be searched for on more broad levels, for example age. ILM can identify data on more detailed and specific levels, like customer or serial numbers.

Managing your data effectively takes dogged determination and almost OCD like organisation.

Here’s how you can make sure your ILM strategy is worth more than the paper it’s written on.

1: ILM done right? – You decide

A successful ILM model will depend on whether it meets the goals of the business. It’s important to set clear objectives of why ILM is needed.

Some common reasons for ILM implementation are to:

  • Respond to customers quicker.
  • Meet regulatory requirements.
  • Save space.
  • Minimise the time needed to update databases.

2: Study your data

What system do you have in place (if any) to store the information flowing in and out of your business? If you have a system, then it would be wise to analyse how the data has changed and grown. This will enable you to predict what storage facilities you’ll need in the future.

The IT department could use storage resource management (SRM) software to identify where data is stored and in what quantities. SRM software pinpoints storage usage and availability by:

  • User
  • Application
  • Department

Examining these aspects of your data will put ILM at the top of the class:

  • Which data is important and why?
  • What needs to be kept?
  • How does information flow within your business?
  • What happens to data after certain periods?
  • Who has access to the data?
  • What security measures are in place?
  • Does the system comply with legal requirements?
  • How can the backup processes be improved?

3: In a class of its own

After the data has been identified, it’ll then need to be classified. This needs to make sense to the business for easy retrieval.

The most common types of classification are:

  • Age
  • Product
  • Privacy
  • Date
  • Value
  • Customer number

4: Define the lifecycle

When the data has been identified and classified, it’s time to specify what happens and when. Each classification will need to be separated and given its own set of policies. Automated data migration (ADM) tools can be used to automatically move and store the data based on the policies.

All of the policies should have these things in common:

  • Consistency
  • Flexibly
  • Accessibility

5.In-house or outsource

Deciding whether to do your ILM in-house will depend on your IT department’s knowledge of the processes and technologies for effective data storage. IT professionals will need to understand that ILM is a critical part of their role due to implications for the business.

Some businesses decide to outsource their ILM. Oracle, SAP and IBM are just some of the organisations that provide data management options for business.

Whichever option you decide will depend on your business needs and budget. What is a certainty is that you’ll need an ILM for better efficiency and to safeguard your business.