How to 'Spring Clean' Your Business Data

Plan ahead for next year: Avoid the hassle ahead of time and get an archive system to handle it all for you.

Spring cleaning -- taking a long, hard look at your possessions to weed out the junk, so as to free up living space -- is a longtime tradition in many cultures. Since we spend a good portion of our lives on computers, it also makes good sense to "spring clean" personal desktop/laptop systems, as well as business-use computers and servers.

Let's face it: How often during the day do you pull aside a file of some kind, intending to return to it when time allows? Subsequently, how often do you not return to it? If we do happen to return, do you trash the file when you're done? Those orphaned files -- whether they be a Word document, photo, music, video or a shortcut to something on the Web -- simply become junk after a short while.
This doesn't even take into account all the automatic junk files an operating system such as Windows creates, too.
In business, this type of faux storage likely doubles or triples in intensity. And it all adds up very quickly.
Like anything else, if you do a little at a time regularly instead of a major once-in-a-great-while assault, it helps avoid a lot of headaches. Unfortunately, when most people start up a PC that has 80GB or 160GB of storage capacity on the main drive -- not to mention adjunct drives that may hold up to 250GB or more -- the immediate thought usually is: "I'm swimming in capacity. I'll not have to worry about space getting tight for a few years."
While that may be true at this time, it is definitely the wrong approach.
"IDC [and other analysts] talk about data doubling every 18 to 24 months," Dave Roberson, senior vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks, told eWEEK. "Most of that is being driven by the content, or unstructured data.
"Database data is growing, but nearly as fast as unstructured data. The drivers of that are Web 2.0 companies; a perfect example is our own SnapFish, where they're adding a million customers a month and a petabyte a month of capacity," Roberson said.
SnapFish is HP's online photo sharing/developing/printing service.
"Yes, a million [new subscribers] per month, and I have no reason not to believe it," Roberson said. "A petabyte a month is also a pretty amazing statistic."
Numerous Web 2.0 companies, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and others are facing the same issues.
How does such a business keep track of all those files?
When you're dealing with that kind of data stock, there's only one answer: install storage archiving software. EMC, IBM, Symantec, NetApp and HP are among the larger names offering this now, and the market, analysts say, is only going to keep growing for at least the next five years.
Business systems need to have specific cataloging and file-saving protocols that must be followed by everyone, all of the time. How many of your employees do you think are saving their files incorrectly and in the wrong places? And how many are saving files they shouldn't be saving, such as MP3s, videos, personal photographs and other documents, on business computers?
Spot-checks of all company computers -- with the full knowledge of all employees -- should be scheduled to keep everybody honest and the system lean.
There are few things more frustrating than spending a lot of time looking for something that should have been easy to locate. It's also irritating to search for a file that someone has accidentally deleted. If you already have a storage archive system, an audit should be on the list of things to do for this year's spring cleaning.
For very large corporate storage/archiving needs, HP will be coming out later this year with a new system called StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100), designed specifically for businesses with multi-petabyte data storage requirements such as Web 2.0, digital media and other large enterprise customers.
This system is built on blade servers in order to provide the performance needed to drive extreme capacity requirements, Roberson said. The base packages starts with four blades, each of which can deliver up to 200MB per second of performance. Each one can scale up to a maximum configuration of 16 blades with up to 12.8 cores per unit, for a 3.2GB/second performance level, Roberson said. More information will be available at a later date.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...