Thursday, 05 August 2010 00:01

Poor backup and archiving practices cost larger organisations dearly


An international survey has revealed a big gap between larger organisations' information management goals and their current practices.

A survey of more than 1600 senior IT and legal executives in 26 countries (including 150 in Australia and New Zealand) has found that while a large majority respondents realise that an appropriate information retention strategy will make it easier to delete unnecessary information, only about half have such a plan.

The survey was carried out by Applied Research for Symantec, and targeted organisations with at least 500 employees.

Among Australian and New Zealand respondents, 96% said they believe in the value of a formal retention policy (vs 87% worldwide), but only 50% (46%) actually have such a policy.

When iTWire asked Craig Scroggie, Symantec's vice president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, whether he was surprised by these findings, he replied "in one word: no."

Scroggie went on to say that the best and worst practices in information management can be seen in the region, and that Applied Research's findings matched Symantec's experience in talking to customers.

What does he recommend organisations should do? Please read on.

Part of the problem is a failure to distinguish backup and archiving, with 68% of backups in the local region (vs 75% worldwide) being on indefinite retention or legal hold. "In many cases, backups aren't required for more that 60 to 90 days," Scroggie told iTWire, and after that a single copy should be retained for archival purposes.

Such repeated backup is expensive, and "just because [the data] is stored doesn't mean it is well managed," he said. Since more data is being backed up than is really necessary, organisations often cannot test their recovery plan because it would take too long to execute.

"A backup is pointless if you can't restore," said Scroggie.

Furthermore, 17% of respondents preserve the entire backup set for legal holds, and overall some 40% of data placed on legal hold is not relevant to the litigation. Consequently, 38% of backup storage is used for legal holds.

"Organisations need a clear plan" that meets their legal and operational needs, said Scroggie, suggesting that should include backing up only the data that needs to be backed up, email and file archiving, deduplication, and automated, policy-driven deletion of items that have reached the end of their retention period.

The courts look more favourably on the automated deletion of old data based on specific policies than they do on situations where deletion is left to individual discretion about what should or should not be retained.

Cost is an issue too - see page 3.

And there are also cost considerations. Not only do you need to pay for the storage consumed by excessive backup sets and unnecessary duplication of data, but when litigation does occur, discovery takes longer and is therefore more expensive.

The gap between current practice and organisations' goals is "substantial," said Scroggie. "Most organisations know they need a formal plan."

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Stephen Withers

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.

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