How to Use Single Instancing to Control Storage Expense

Only 10 percent of an iceberg is visible above the waterline. The same holds true for the enterprise cost of electronic information storage, where the true depth of the storage issue and its overall impact on the corporate bottom line remain hidden. With large enterprises spending as much as 40 percent of their IT budgets on their storage infrastructures, there is greater incentive than ever to apply the "reduce, reuse and recycle" mantra to achieve hard cost savings and enjoy the benefits of green IT. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Stuart Butts explains how to use single-instance storage to control storage resources and expense.


In a world where 80 percent of CIOs admit to never seeing their energy bills, enterprises are under the illusion that they have limitless inexpensive storage. While no one can hold back the rapid escalation in storage demand, the opportunity does exist to control storage resources and expense by employing a familiar green mantra: "reduce, reuse, recycle." No electronic IT is inherently green; it depends on how it is used and what it replaces.

Electronic archives are an operational area that requires new attention in order to generate optimal results, as demands for document storage continue to grow exponentially. One key strategy is single-instance storage. Contemporary, server-based technology can be used to enable single instancing for High-Volume Transaction Output (HVTO) applications, as well as deliver dramatic reductions in the cost of electronic document storage.

By way of explanation, HVTO encompasses internal content such as operational reports and customer-facing content such as statements, policies, bills and routine correspondence. These documents, traditionally destined for physical print and fulfillment, are typically stored in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems for internal stakeholder use and online customer presentation. In an effort to reduce storage requirements, ECM vendors have historically offered compression options. But compression is largely ineffective when dealing with graphically-rich, customer-facing content.

Single-instance storage is "a system's ability to keep one copy of content that multiple users or computers share. It is a means to eliminate data duplication and to increase efficiency." Single instancing, when combined with transformation, is a perfect example of "reduce, reuse and recycle" at work. Transformation is the process in which output is fed to another system, perhaps in a different (that is, transformed) print or presentation language. Single instancing reduces the overall storage footprint by storing information only once and reuses common composition elements from high-volume documents. High-speed retrieval and on the fly format transformation permits recycling of stored content and content repurposing.