Once this distinction is made, an organisation might then split each into two or three levels or tiers of priority.
“Transactional data is generally the lifeblood of the business,” IBRS analyst, Dr Kevin McIsaac, said. “You might consider a ‘Platinum’ class for your customer information system data, your ERP and supply chain data and your online transaction data. It has to be highly available during business hours if not 24/7, has to be stored on the best disk available, and mirrored and backed-up so that systems can be restored within minutes or seconds of any downtime.
“You might then have a slightly lower class, lets call it ‘Gold’ class, applied to that transactional data that is less time sensitive – perhaps for accounting systems and the like. For this data, restoring after downtime might be a little more relaxed. The business can still function if it had to wait an hour to bring this data back online.”
The same kind of formula can be applied to unstructured data. Email might be considered ‘Gold’ for example, as many organisations would all but shut down without access. But documents on file servers may fit into a ‘Bronze’ class.
Once a business has a good view of its data, it can make far smarter decisions as to what storage technologies to use in its overall mix. ‘Platinum’ data, for example, might require the more expensive fibre channel connectivity and best-grade hardware available to ensure uptime and speed of access. But the disaster recovery site it fails over to might only require ‘Gold’ or ‘Bronze’ level disk.
However, ask any line of business manager what level of storage they want and they will all demand the best. McIsaac recommended IT departments bill business units per terabyte of storage, with a different price per terabyte for each level (Platinum, Gold or Bronze).
“A high price on Platinum and a far lower price on Bronze drives line of business managers down to realistic expectations,” McIsaac claimed. “It gives business units guidance on what service levels they truly require and ensures that storage technologies are used appropriately.”
After classifying their data, customers still face the problem of dealing with the rising data flood.
Traditionally, when capacity ran out, IT decision makers increased the supply of disk or set limits on usage. These days, to undertake the first course of action users are increasingly purchasing SATA drives.
Although slower and having a higher failure rate than fibre channel, it is cheaper and often married with applications that aren’t as essential, according to NEC server and storage specialist, Anthony Pepin.