Home Business IT Business Telecommunications Businesses spending $1.1 trillion annually on digital information storage and management: report

Businesses spending $1.1 trillion annually on digital information storage and management: report

Information management is a costly business, according to international research commissioned by Symantec. But the information being managed is a valuable asset.

Businesses around the world are spending in aggregate as much as $1.1 trillion per year to store and manage digital data, according to a survey carried out for Symantec that covered over 4500 organisations including 200 in Australia and New Zealand. Organisations surveyed ranged from five to more than 5000 employees.

That expenditure goes on 2.2 zettabytes of information, with an average of 563TB costing $332,000 for SMEs, and 100,000TB and $38 million for enterprise-scale organisations. Balancing those numbers, respondents said digital information accounts for 49% of the value of their organisations. Locally, the fraction was slightly smaller at 45%.

Information expenditure per employee doesn't vary much with the size of the organisation. Symantec reports an average of $3670 for SMEs and $3297 for enterprises.

Sean Kopelke, Symantec's director of specialist solutions for the Pacific region, told iTWire that the growth in information being stored plus its increasing complexity was outstripping the reduction in costs for storage devices and any economies of scale that might be achieved. He suggested there were two things that businesses should consider to help get their information management and storage costs under control.

The first is to accept that "not all data is created equal," and to treat information according to its value. However, that goes against the tendency to keep all data as it may be of use at a later date.

The second is to use deduplication to eliminate unnecessary copies (as much as 42% of data is duplicated), combining this practice with an appropriate archiving policy that also helps with 'just in case' data retention.

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Mr Kopelke also noted that organisations need to adopt a consistent set of policies for managing data whether it is stored in physical, virtual or cloud systems. That's especially true for data about customers. More than 40% of respondents said the loss of information with no prospect of recovery would decrease revenue, increase expenses, lose customers, or damage the brand.

"We know all the good practices, we just don't get around to doing all of them," he said.

Another factor contributing to information storage costs is the low level of storage utilisation. The survey suggested this is as low as 28% inside the firewall and just 14% outside.

Techniques for improving utilisation (though this was not canvassed by the report) include the thin provisioning of volumes held on virtual storage systems, and the replacement of conventional PCs with virtual desktops and thin clients (which also allows deduplication of data and thin provisioning in place of hard drives distributed around the organisation).

The local version of the report is available here.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.