Businesses need to prepare for digital data explosion

19 May 2009

Do you want to hear some pretty mind-blowing statistics about our ever-growing digital universe? At 487 billion gigabytes, the amount of digital information created in 2008 could be loaded onto 237 billion (!) Amazon Kindles – that’s 2.6 million Kindles per seat at the Wembley Stadium in London.

In actual fact, the magic number is 3,892,179,868,480,350,000,000 because that’s the number of bits created in 2008, said John Gantz, chief research officer for global market research and analysis firm IDC.

So what does this mean to the average business, particularly in the midst of a recession? Well, it has serious implications, according to Mike Altendorf, head of EMEA in the consulting division of data storage and management firm EMC, who sponsored the IDC report.

Over the next four years, while this expanse of digital data is predicted to grow by a factor of almost five, the global IT budget will only grow by a factor of 1.2pc, with IT staff numbers growing by a mere 1.1pc .

“The ramifications of this is even more compounded by fact that we’re seeing IT budgets and resources in corporates shrinking – it is forecast to shrink by 6-7pc this year,” Altendorf said.

“With one number going up and the other going down, it is a real double whammy.”

Any business or organisation needs to look at revisiting its information governance, policies and procedures, and see how this will manage all this new information coming down the line, he explained.

“It will need to look at how information is used within its business, by its employees and by its customers.”

Everything will need to be looked at from a fresh perspective: from how to secure existing and new data, to loss prevention, to how a company ensures that their employees treat data – especially customer and complex financial data – with deference and the right understanding, he added.

“Another element is that blogging and social-networking sites increase the risk of data leakage through employees, which, while not necessarily deliberate, can happen.

“It is too big a phenomenon to simply be banned or stopped, so governance structures must be implemented so that people behave responsibly,” Altendorf said.

“In the corporate world, the first instinct is to ban these sorts of activities, which never stops them but rather runs them underground, so now corporations are starting to come up with these governance processes, which are critical.”

Another element of managing all the new data being created is finding it and re-using it to a company’s advantage.

So much data advantageous to the company for marketing and customer/client purposes lies in silos and efficient search is the key to unlocking this.

“Companies need to look at putting in new software tools and capabilities to really start to use this huge amount of information.

“At EMC, what we are seeing is that the best knowledge management application lies in using search more effectively.

“This, linked with analaytcial reporting, can prove invaluable to a company. With the right platform, all the existing information can be tied together,” Altendorf explained.

The logical conclusion to increasing storage will also push greener virtualisation technologies, as information goes into the cloud, Altendorf said, with physical storage becoming a less attractive and almost impossible solution as time goes on.

By Marie Boran