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2/27/2008
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Where To Start With ILM

Last week I hosted an ILM (Information Life-cycle Management) video Web cast. One of the questions that came up was "Where do I start with ILM without much risk?" It's a good question.

Last week I hosted an ILM (Information Life-cycle Management) video Web cast. One of the questions that came up was "Where do I start with ILM without much risk?" It's a good question.First, some background. ILM recognizes that the business value of data will change over its lifetime, and that data should be moved to the most appropriate storage medium based on that value. ILM comprises a whole set of processes, policies, and technologies, including tiered storage and some form of information classification capability.

Business drivers for ILM include cutting storage costs by moving low-value data to inexpensive disk or tape as quickly as possible; meeting regulatory and legal compliance issues, such as e-discovery, with a minimum of effort and expense; and improving storage management and resource utilization.

So where to start? E-mail archiving is a good choice.

E-mail is a prime target for e-discovery requests, in which corporations have to cough up all relevant electronic records related to litigation. Given how much business happens via e-mail, enterprises need a system in place to ensure that messages are safely stored and searchable.

The archive means that IT gets copies of all mail (and prevents enterprising executives from deleting incriminating messages). Many archive products can provide de-duplication, full content indexing, and search. Archives also can help enforce retention and disposal policies, so that e-mail can be saved as long as required -- and then immediately gotten rid of.

Archiving also eases the strain on production storage. Mail can be moved off Exchange servers and into the archive quickly (say within 30 days). Smaller loads on Exchange servers means faster backups and snapshots.

It also means IT doesn't have to enforce mail box quotas on users. The archive essentially acts as a virtual mail box, because older mail is moved to a lower-cost storage tier, but is still available to the end user with one click. With a seemingly infinite mailbox, IT doesn't have to fight user workarounds to quotas, such as PST files that get squirreled onto local drives, file shares, or even USB drives.

All these capabilities tie back to ILM principles. At the same time, the business benefits of archiving will be a more powerful sell to executives than "archiving will assist with our ILM strategy."

Of course, an e-mail archive is only part of an ILM architecture. It doesn't address structured data in databases, or unstructured data (i.e., Word and PowerPoint files, CAD files, medical images, or the myriad content being generated inside SharePoint and other collaboration environments). I'll get to those issues in subsequent posts.

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