An increasing number of organisations are mining the data in their archives. Typically, they are looking to gain key insight that can improve business outcomes. With this emerging trend in mind, we recently launched a research project with the International Data Corporation (IDC), a Global market research, analysis and advisory firm that specialises in information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology.
Understanding the data lifcycle
Our research goal is to create and publish an independent assessment on the benefits of a comprehensive strategy to mine, analyse and manage data throughout its entire lifecycle – from its creation to archive. We anticipate that our work with IDC will help business executives, policy makers and IT leaders to assess their own progress in leveraging and mining data for insight.
The survey correspondents are IT directors, compliance managers and business lines owners responsible for data management, analytics that support innovation, business transformation, or driving efficiency. The geographies covered are North America (Canada and the USA), Western Europe (Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the UK) and Australia. Currently in the field, the research is drawing to a close and the initial findings are coming through. As we understand the themes that emerge and start publishing the results, I will write about the study on this blog, emphasising the significance of the findings for Western Europe.
Here, I would like to introduce one of our research partners Sean Pike. Sean is Program Director at IDC for eDiscovery and Information Governance Research. He has recently published a blog that comments on Vint Cerf’s recent warning of the coming of a digital dark age. With the kind permission of Sean and IDC, we have reproduced it here with some minor adjustments for English spelling conventions.
Avoiding a Digital Dark Age; the importance of implementing a data archiving plan
In February, Vint Cerf—Internet pioneer and current Vice President at Google—warned of an upcoming digital dark age. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, CA Cerf cautioned that we may be facing a forgotten century as important data and information becomes lost to future generations.
“We digitise things because we think we will preserve them”, observed Cerf, “but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artefacts that we digitised”. To emphasise his point, Cerf suggested that if there are any photos you really care about, you should probably print them out.
The nature of the challenge
The challenge boils down to digital obsolescence in the face of changing technology standards. As hardware and software marches inexorably forward, data and documents stored in previous generation formats may not always be viewable in the future.
For a simple example, think no further than your collection of family videos. Today you may capture moments on a smartphone, while five years ago it may have been a Flip camera and ten years ago on VHS. But how many of us still have VHS players in our homes? Chances are those adorable baby’s-first-steps videos locked away in your attic are all but unviewable today.
A strategic solution
This problem is compounded when taken to the enterprise level. Organisations have myriad critical data like customer information, financial records, sales contracts, compliance documents, market research, support logs and strategic plans that may need to be accessed at any point in the future. But as the march of technology progresses, data stored in legacy formats runs the risk of becoming obsolete, and organisations run the risk of losing institutional knowledge, regulatory compliance and even competitive advantage.
IDC believes organisations should think seriously about their data archiving strategies, and put in place the necessary tools, governance and processes to ensure critical data doesn’t fall into a digital black hole. Companies can borrow from existing strategies and best practices, such as those used to ensure the transfer of knowledge from institutional old timer employees and keepers of corporate secrets. A sound strategy should ensure archived data is not only secure, but is also easily accessible by whoever needs it—IT, Compliance or line of business managers—whenever and wherever it’s needed, regardless of the media used for storage.
In fact, the timing of Mr Cerf’s comments is appropriate because IDC is launching a thought leadership study sponsored by Iron Mountain called Mining for Insight: Rediscovering the Archive. In this global study of over 1,000 IT, Compliance and line of business executives, IDC will characterise the value of the data stored in organisations’ archives and issues and challenges around accessing this value.
About the author
Sean Pike is the Program Director for Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) and eDiscovery in IDC’s Storage Systems Research Group. He provides competitive intelligence and strategic advisory on technologies and solutions for information governance, risk, compliance and legal discovery. He holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law, an MS in Telecommunications from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Pike is also an attorney licensed in the State of Maryland.