I have a hunch that if I browsed our clients’ file servers I would discover, at minimum, that 15 to 20 percent of the total data they are storing is not needed, or is only needed for archival purposes. That’s a pretty large chunk of data to have sitting on a server taking up resources that could be better utilized. It’s also likely to be costing a good bit of money.
New technology, old habits
There’s no wondering how it got to this point. Organizations have always instructed users to save their files on the server for backup. Rarely, if ever, are they instructed to review their data for cleanup. So, like good employees, they save everything to the server as it should. The problem is that this data backup often includes multiple drafts, multiple copies, and duplicate attachments residing in multiple employee folders because many received the same attachment in an email. That’s a lot of unnecessary data.
It gets worse if folder redirection is enabled on company desktops. Folder redirection is when data is redirected to be stored on the network rather than locally on a computer. If a staff member is a big music fan, there’s a pretty good chance that they have a music library on their work machine. Most programs install music libraries into a user’s My Documents folder. If you set a good policy for folder redirection, there’s a good chance that you are now paying to back up your employee’s music files or photo library.
People should be asking themselves, “How long does our company need to retain records?” When everything was paper, overstuffed shelves and filing cabinets served as visual reminder to purge and shred material. Storing data digitally has produced an out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality. Today, how many companies actually go back and review old digital files for annual cleanup? From my experience, there aren’t many.
In the past, most companies didn’t have to worry about data storage issues. As long as there was free space on the drives and the data fit onto the backup tape, you were fine. Now, the majority of companies back up to an online resource and most pay a per GB charge to store their data offsite. If you’re not doing this, you should be, but consider what data you’re backing up because it’s now affecting your bottom line.
Initiate an inventory
What are your options? Start by taking inventory of your data storage. Run reports to analyze what files are taking up space. Take a look at file types, large folders or former employee folders. Then look at the dates on folders and files to see what hasn’t been touched in the last few years. Even if you decide that you need to maintain a longer archive, there are alternative storage options that don’t require you to pay a monthly cost for files that aren’t being used.
With all the strategies to consider, please take note that although your records room is now digital, it still needs to be maintained. Even if you have requirements for maintaining data for a period of time, this should not be a reason to back up that data in the same manner as your active data. Archiving solutions can be implemented to help save on those costs as well.
Spring cleaning is long gone, but there’s never a bad time to clean out that digital storage room—especially when it means saving you money in the end.