Everyone hates to deal with clutter and perhaps nowhere is this truer than when it comes to managing data. Knowingly or otherwise, enterprises tend to sweep data management tasks under the proverbial rug since they rarely see its true cost or feel its impact. That perception changed significantly in 2012 as more organizations are starting to feel the sting of being unable to find the information they need simply because they have too much data in too many places to effectively search it.

Report after report highlights how fast corporate data is growing annually. Just a few months ago IDG Enterprise released yet another study that shows data growing on average by 53% in most organizations in 2013. Yet what this report and others fail to examine is the impact that this data growth is having on the ability of organizations to effectively manage and search it.

The global results of a newly released Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey that was performed by ReRez and sponsored by Symantec provides needed insight into this overlooked aspect of data management. As one might guess, it revealed that many organizations are admitting for the first time being bit by their inability to find the information they need in their growing and scattered data stores – much of which may be arguably classified as “clutter.”

This global survey of senior IT executives at 500 enterprises that each has more than 500 employees was conducted to uncover what steps large organizations are taking to manage and their growing data stores. On the upside, there was a definite uptick in the number and percentage of companies that recognize their need to better manage their growing amounts of electronically stored information (ESI) so their data stores do not turn into clutter.

Formal Information Retention Plan.JPGSource: January 2013 Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey Global Results

From 2011 to 2012, the percentage of enterprises that already have a plan in place increased by 2% from 32% to 34% while those that have no plan in place decreased by 50% from 14% to 7%. This suggests that the vast majority of enterprises have got the message that they need to put in place the appropriate policies and procedures to control their data growth. Already 93% are in some stage of putting in place a formal information retention plan so as to minimize their clutter.

It is the proficiency of how well they are executing upon their formal information retention plan that still leaves something to be desired. While 81% admit that proper information retention policies should free them to delete information, 42% still retain backups indefinitely. This percentage was essentially unchanged from 2011.

Yet maybe the most disconcerting statistic coming out of this study was how retaining more data was negatively impacting their ability to search ESI, especially when fulfilling eDiscovery requests. These organizations shared that ESI search requests partially or completely failed 31% of the time up from only 20% the year before with only 56% rating their preparedness for court cases as “somewhat” or “extremely” prepared. Almost all respondents (75%) described the responsiveness of ESI search as “less than extremely responsive.”

This is where the disconnect in organizations becomes apparent. While they admit that they should delete data, their failure to execute upon information retention policy is resulting in out of control ESI growth. This is in turn inhibits their ability to effectively search their data since they have more and more data to search.

In discussing this aspect of the survey with the Director of Symantec’s Information Intelligence Group, Trevor Daughney, he said Symantec has identified that new data flows coming in from mobile devices as starting to negatively impact the ability of enterprises to confidently search their data stores. Daughney observes, “As more enterprises store data with cloud storage providers this puts further pressure on enterprises to effectively manage and search ESI.

In the near term almost every enterprise could improve their ability to manage ESI by enforcing retention policies for their backups. The overwhelming majority of enterprises (85%) still routinely perform legal holds using their backups even though the best use case for backups remains recovery. Aggravating this situation, because so many use backups in this context, 56% of these enterprises report that some of their backup storage is in some way dedicated to infinite retention further adding to their data and storage management costs and headaches.

Are you routinely performing legal
holds in your backup environment?

Backup Legal Hold.JPGSource: January 2013 Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey Global Results

This 2013 Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey shows that while enterprises across the board are finally getting serious about implementing information management, they have yet to get really serious about executing on it. As a result, enterprises are starting to feel a financial impact as they need more storage hardware to store this data, higher IT labor costs from spending more time searching for data and increased legal fees resulting from delays and/or the inability to find the information. Together these three forces are sending a not-so-subtle message to upper management that unless their organizations execute upon what they already know they need to do, they need to get ready for still higher data management costs in 2013.

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