Getting a Handle on Gigabyte Growth

Jan 24, 2019

By Rich Walsh

Explosive growth in data volume
As managers seek solutions for storing ever-growing quantities of electronic records, many companies have shifted their storage concerns from securing enough office space to capitalizing on cyberspace. From e-mails to business documents to video files and beyond, companies are being inundated with growing amounts and expanding varieties of electronic content.

In a December 2009 whitepaper, The Promise of Offsite Electronic Storage, leading IT market research and advisory firm IDC stated that the amount of electronic information is reaching extraordinary—and for many, unheard of—levels. By 2011, IDC estimates that worldwide creation and replication of electronic content will approach 1,800 exabytes. To put it in perspective, one exabyte is equivalent to 250 million DVDs.

A typical company that stores mainly office productivity documents and e-mail may see data-growth rates of at least 50% per year, according to the IDC paper. Companies with growing volumes of electronic image, video and audio files and scientific data may experience growth rates of more than 100% annually.

At this pace of growth, how does a company handle a seemingly never-ending flow of e-content?

Getting started with e-storage
Companies can gain control of spiraling volumes of e-content by using various in-house solutions or by turning to a third-party e-storage provider. In either case, a strategy for storing and managing mounting gigabytes of data should address such pertinent factors as:

  • Cost: Recent economic conditions have tightened budgets, making companies focus more on predictable operational expenses rather than investing in new technology, equipment, and other capital expenses. A long-term strategy should account for expanding storage needs in relation to available capital and estimated ongoing operational expenses.
  • Control: An e-storage strategy should give companies the ability to manage and oversee their information and sensitive records effectively, while maintaining control over how the data are stored and indexed and how long the data must be retained. Control is a necessity as e-discovery becomes a more costly force in compliance and legal matters. In fact, companies have incurred significant fines for being unable to retrieve and deliver specific data in a timely manner.
  • Efficiency: According to research from AIIM, the nonprofit association for the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) community, improving efficiency and optimizing business processes are among the biggest drivers for e-storage solutions. Effective solutions should give companies the ability to consolidate data while managing size, security, and providing access and maintenance tools.
  • Effectiveness: An e-storage strategy should help companies create value from their stored data for better information management and to support future product and service ideas. Among its many capabilities, the e-storage system should provide simplified search features and easy access to stored information.

Mounting data = mounting costs
When companies store their electronic records in-house, they can also take on risk, expenses, and the potential for inefficiency. Organizations may discover significant capacity challenges and incur unforeseen costs. For example, costs associated with monitoring, managing, and protecting the storage environment and fees for consultants and expenses related to operating various data centers may run higher than anticipated.

The growth in the number and size of electronic records also can affect a company’s operational expenditures. For example, companies may face rising expenses from:

  • IT/storage resources—costs related to employees and/or consultants to operate and manage the data while keeping systems up to date and compliant.
  • Power and cooling costs, which IDC expects will grow from approximately 8% of datacenter costs in 2000 to almost 21% by 2012.
  • Ongoing support and maintenance.
  • Compliance—self-imposed, industry, and government regulations can add costs by requiring:
    —A secure and protected storage solution
    —A searchable e-content archive for audit and e-discovery activity
    —Multiple, separate onsite archives.

In addition, companies may unknowingly hold materials beyond recommended retention periods, potentially increasing their legal and compliance risks. Unless a company develops a timetable for purging old or outdated files, it will continue to incur costs for storing expired data. 

What to store; when to purge
Different types of data require different retention periods, as mandated by various regulatory, legal, operational, and other requirements. Furthermore, because every company has different types of data, they should first determine whether a particular item is a “record” and therefore subject to a retention and disposition schedule. According to a November 2008 report from the Collaborative Electronic Records Project, characteristics of a record include:

  • Contains legal or regulatory compliance information
  • Indicates a transaction
  • Identifies participants in business activities or those with knowledge of an event
  • Proves a business-related event or activity occurred or did not occur

The report also recommends sorting records into three categories—enduring value, limited value, and no value—and establishing retention periods for each group.

In terms of specific records, the report recommends organizations permanently archive select data and develop a multi-year timetable for storing other content. For example, the report indicates that companies should consider permanently storing such documents as:

  • Audit reports
  • Charters and bylaws
  • Year-end financial statements
  • Strategic plans
  • Retirement and pension records

The report suggested companies consider a minimum seven-year retention period for other documents, including:

  • Bank statements
  • Expired contracts
  • Invoices
  • Tax documents
  • Inventory records

Finding cost-saving solutions
Here are some ways organizations can address their electronic storage-related challenges:

  • Eliminate data duplication. Database information is proliferating; the same e-content is unnecessarily stored on multiple PCs and servers. Data “de-duplication” products can help locate and eliminate redundant data, saving on storage space and related maintenance costs.
  • Remove redundant hardware and software. Many companies inadvertently create IT environments with incompatible and often duplicate hardware, applications and processes. Eliminating redundant and incompatible IT systems can help lower costs and make systems more efficient.
  • Consolidate databases and systems. As companies grow, they add new databases and applications to support business units and functions. Consolidating these systems can generate cost savings and streamline processes.
  • Consider a managed offsite e-storage solution. The responsibility of managing infrastructure, information management, security, compliance, and risk is shifted to an independent third-party provider focused on securely storing and managing companies’ sensitive data. With an offsite, pay-as-you-use-it approach, a service provider handles the storage volume and the company can more easily and predictably manage the costs.

The bottom line
By eliminating redundancies, consolidating systems, and securing a more efficient strategy for storing growing volumes of e-content, IDC estimates companies could realize annual savings of up to 30% by migrating to an offsite storage service.  In today’s climate of economic uncertainty, budget cuts and spending freezes, such savings and risk reduction can positively affect a company’s bottom line and strengthen its competitive position.

For a more comprehensive list of documents and their minimum retention periods, view the full report.

Download a copy of “The Promise of Offsite Electronic Storage.”

About the Author(s)

Rich Walsh is president of Document Archive & Repository Services at Viewpointe ( He has more than 25 years of operational information technology experience.