Don't be afraid to delete that email

Symantec's Sean Regan talks about how his company eases customers' fears of deleting business information

Today, many enterprises find themselves mired in the ever increasing need of bigger inboxes and larger archives. But the problem is that their IT departments haven't got the dough to buy more storage."

The financial crisis and tighter IT budgets are not helping the situation either. Between 2007 and 2009, the part of IT budget spent on storage has jumped up from 7 per cent to 17 percent. So, at a time when IT budgets are flat or negative, and storage budget as a component of the overall IT budget keeps burning a bigger hole, IT departments have to live the cliché of our times: do more with less. However, that does not leave them with enough moolah for chasing innovations.

Bottom-line? We can't afford to fund bigger mail boxes, the companies sing in a chorus of despair.

Small problem, big pain, that's right. This begs the question: Is there a solution for this moolah-guzzling monster of a problem?

Delete and manage

Apparently there is, says Sean Regan, director, product marketing, Information Management Group, Symantec. Sean was recently in Singapore ahead of announcing Symantec's releasing of a new de-duplication appliance based on its existing software product, as well as a cloud storage service for NetBackup and Backup Exec customers (read the related story here).

"As a first step, we advise companies to deploy archiving technology," says Regan. "The second step is to implement retention and deletion policy. The other option is to put restrictions on how much storage your users can have. And that's not an option."

"So the best way is to start archiving, then managing and deleting your content," he says.

"The basic point the larger customers in the market are missing right now is that there is so much data coming in and organisations aren't actually retiring or deleting any of the data. So, it is not a surprise to know that they can't continue to do that."

The world of copies and copies

According to Regan, Symantec talks about an information management strategy that their customers can use to help solve the problem of limited storage in the face of a deluge of content.

But first Regan poses a question to the enterprises: Why is it that when it comes to paper, we are concerned about Green IT, but when it comes to storage and data centres, we turn a bit blasé.

Regan says that it is not the case that enterprises or their employees don't want to improve the situation. In fact, according to a June 2010 worldwide survey of 1700 respondents (600 from Asia), conducted by Symantec, almost 90 per cent of respondents said that they wanted to be allowed to delete email but three quarters of them were not actually doing it (as part of their back up plan).

So, why is it that less than half of the respondents actually have a formal information retention plan in place?

"Companies instead save information indefinitely because they fear deleting information that may be important to the business or may be required as part of a future e-discovery request," says Regan. "As a result, information becomes harder to find and the costs of storing and searching for that information rise."

In plain words, if emails (or any content) are just stored and not deleted, the back up systems, over time, create their copies multiple times. The result is pain: in terms of discovery (where's that email I have looking for?) and bumped up storage costs (ouch!).

From ouch to aha!

Against this background, Regan says Symantec offers three integrated solutions--storage, virtualisation, and information management--that can cure the disease.

Enterprise Vault 9.0 and Enterprise Vault Discovery Collector are the latest releases in Symantec's Information Management Strategy, to help enable organizations to delete confidently and discover efficiently, while protecting their information completely and deduplicating everywhere to eliminate redundant data.

"The faster you virtualise, the faster you realise the benefits of server consolidation," says Regan. "On the other hand, every time you virtualise your server, you make copies of redundant data." So, virtualisation is beneficial but it cuts both ways. The nirvana, as Regan figures, is in information management.

In Symantec's approach, this information management strategy revolves around four pillars: data protection, discovery, cloud storage and de-duplication.

"I think the world has completely misused back up," Regan says, criticizing the storage strategy of companies. He cites the example of an unnamed company that had 80,000 tapes on site. Regan thinks this kind of attitude to storage is sheer profligacy. "Thirty days of back up should be enough."

On discovery, Symantec has a clean logic: people keep things to find them later, but if you keep everything, you can't find what you want. You see the catch? "So, get rid of the junk," he advises. "If you keep too much, you are putting your customers at risk (of data loss or theft)."

The third pillar of the strategy is the cloud. "It is an option that is coming out--it gives you more space at less cost." Symantec helps companies back up their data to the cloud (hot data stays locally and cold data goes to the cloud).

Symantec's cloud-based storage service is called NetBackup. It has integrated its user interface with Nirvanix's Storage Delivery Network for automated and policy-based backup and recovery service. In the recently announced products, the users of Backup Exec and NetBackup will be able to select the "cloud-storage" option within the user interface, which will automatically connect their data to the service for backup.

The fourth pillar in Symantec's information management approach is De-duplication. "De-dupe everywhere," says Regan, "at the application layer, back up layer and in storage."

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