By Karen S. Henrie Print this article Print

The value of information changes over time, and information lifecycle management is designed helps companies take advantage of those changes. But integration woes remain.


ILM isn't just about e-mail archiving and tiered storage.
According to Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst with Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., too many companies think a simple e-mail archive tool or tiered storage alone will deliver the benefits of ILM. In nearly all cases, however, that strategy doesn't work. "People are overreaching when they call e-mail archiving ILM. Archiving is just a tactical solution to a much larger problem." The same goes for tiered storage: It's a necessary component, but not the whole answer. ILM entails many more steps and a deeper awareness of the business context of information. That's why Gartner's Russell says he is always reminding companies that "there's no such thing as an ILM product. Companies need to stitch ILM together themselves, perhaps with the help of a professional services firm, and with up to a dozen different products."

By the same token, George Symons, CTO of information management software with Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., says that while high-level IT executives continue to make the buying decisions for ILM, "the influencers have changed dramatically. The chief compliance officer, general counsel and chief security officer are much more involved than in the past. And we are also starting to see more heads of records management."

Symons advises CIOs to view the first phase of ILM as a three-to-four-year project. For many companies, e-mail is a good starting point, says Symons, because it creates problems both for IT and for the business. "E-mail data is increasing at an incredibly high rate. If IT doesn't manage it, then users will." And the risk is high: "E-mail is discoverable. Companies need protocols to retain e-mail and manage it," says PwC's Conway. While true, Duplessie cautions companies not to focus too much on e-mail at the expense of other types of information. "Less than 2 percent of all companies have an e-mail regulatory requirement, and e-mail represents less than 2 percent of all the data in the organization. What about the letter or the file or the transaction or the VoIP message?"

Taking an information inventory first will help determine where to focus ILM efforts. For large companies, this can be tough. "Over 90 percent of IT organizations today don't have a good feel for what they are actually storing," says Gartner's Russell. "In large IT shops, requests come in for more disk space every hour. Yet around the world, disk capacity is at 50 percent."

A document retention strategy is another essential component of ILM, says Conway. "Because of its importance in managing compliance risks, it dramatically increases a company's readiness for a regulatory investigation or litigation." Most companies' document retention policies and schedules, she points out, make no mention of electronic documents today. "Pursuing ILM will force companies to integrate their perspective on physical and electronic documents," she adds.

Implementing tiered storage is perhaps the ILM area where companies have made the most progress. Duplessie says the majority of companies he talks to have multiple tiers of storage in place. Workman, of Pillar Data Systems, estimates that implementing tiered storage will account for "about 20 percent of the total investment in ILM," but ultimately, it will also help cut storage costs.

Classification of information is the most strategic, and immature, step in implementing ILM. Gartner's Russell recommends a two-step approach. First "look for the low-hanging fruit" to discover which business applications consume the largest amount of disk space, or whether a critical server is 95 percent full, or if another group of services is woefully underutilized.

Next, "a group of peers from IT and the business needs to decide the pecking order of applications," says Duplessie. Symons advises CIOs to keep it simple when writing policies that will dictate how information is treated, including no more than four or five options. "The fewer the policies, the more straightforward the conversation with the business users."

Automation is the final, essential component for ILM. Duplessie says that, usually, "when companies think they've done ILM, they are really manually moving information." ILM requires companies to codify and enforce the policies they've written into rules-based systems that manage information without human involvement.

Ask your executive team:

Who should be involved in prioritizing the value of our applications and information?

Ask your head of storage:

How can we use tiered storage to kick-start an ILM implementation?

Story Guide:

  • Strategy
  • Implementation
  • Results
  • Future

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    This article was originally published on 2012-05-08
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