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Tue 21 Aug 2007 07:57 AM

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What's hiding on your network?

A survey carried out on behalf of Hitachi Data Systems has shown up some rather careless attitudes to data management in the region.

A survey carried out on behalf of Hitachi Data Systems has shown up some rather careless attitudes to data management in the region. The study showed that around three quarters of companies surveyed in the region had no clear policy on protecting data stored on mobile devices.

A bit worrying maybe, but perhaps not too surprising - managing data once it's out on the mobile edge is a huge challenge. Even synchronizing data is time consuming, and given that many people use their personal mobile phone for work, even a simple SMS message can be a danger to corporate data integrity. Short of a complete separation of work and personal devices - and do you really want to travel with two phones, two laptops etc - it's very difficult to really safeguard data once it has been moved out of the office.

More worrying, however, was the fact that 36% of respondents estimated that anywhere from one tenth to one quarter of their total corporate storage capacity was being used to store non-corporate data. Only 16% of companies had policies or planned to put them in place to regulate this use of corporate assets.

While the survey was just a small sample of 50 anonymous IT decision makers, they represented companies with 250 - 1,000 plus employees. And even taking the figure of 10-25% of storage used for non-business means as a very ballpark figure, and including the large reservoirs of storage that exist in simple desktop hard drives, why would 84% of IT managers freely admit that they had no plans to try and control what their end users are stuffing into their networks?

The nature of the material being stored should be concern enough, given that inappropriate content can potentially cause embarrassment, legal action and material harm to a company. Proper usage guidelines are easily available online, and any company that doesn't at least set staff boundaries is asking for trouble. But the content need not be inappropriate for it to become a problem.

Storage is getting cheaper, but volumes of data are increasing exponentially. For some cash-flushed companies, it may be an acceptable cost to lose 10% of their storage capacity to non-corporate data, but particularly given the amount of data stored in email systems, what happens when you need to sort the wheat from the chaff in your data?

At present, standards of discovery and compliance are not important to every company in this region, but those standards are more than likely going to impact on any company that does business on an international basis, or wants to attract international business. Meeting standards means being able to manage data properly - and failing to control what data is getting put into your network in the first place can only make for a bigger mess to manage once the CEO does decide it's time to get compliant.

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