Originating Author: Robert Levine
Deploying unstructured content storage involves implementing a project plan supported by a well-resourced team to classify and index data and set standards and policies in a hardware/software solution. Organizations are more likely to find success with piloted or phased implementations. This can mean initially implementing a solution for only one type of content (medical imaging files, for example), for one business area (trading or sales), and so on. That area must be willing to invest time in testing the storage concept and providing detailed feedback to the project team. Issues with the solution, or with the deployment process itself, can be fleshed out and taken into account in further phases of implementation. A limited scope deployment can take place in a couple of months, while full enterprise deployments can take several months depending upon the degree of standardization, number of content types, amount of storage required, number and nature of policies and rules, and detailed requirements for content access and retrieval.
Finding a starting point with an enthusiastic line of business is critical as the cost of not managing unstructured content can include long legal proceedings, non-compliance with legal discovery requirements, non-compliance with regulatory requirements for archival, and the loss of business opportunities or provision of lower quality products or services due to the inability to properly search content. Measuring the return on investment of an unstructured content storage solution is not any easier than measuring ROI for other process improvements or compliance initiatives (think about email, a telephone, or SOX compliance). But measuring total cost of ownership (TCO), quality of service (QoS) and metrics for capacity, latency, transfer rates, as well as processes like backups, recoveries, provisioning, inventorying, and archiving should be done as rigorously as for structured data storage. One innovation is the use of the MAPS (Megabyte Objects per Second) measurement of storage efficiency - this is more applicable to multimedia and other unstructured content than KAPS (Kilobyte Objects per Second). Also, measuring the ratio of managed storage (for structured and unstructured content) to total storage is one way of tracking the deployment of the unstructured content storage initiative.
Deploying an unstructured content storage solution can take anywhere from a couple to several months to implement from analysis to deployment, depending upon the scope of the effort, the organization’s level of storage maturity, and the amount of funding and resources available to direct at the project. Knowledgeable storage management staff needs to be freed up from operational or other duties to participate in this effort, as do the users who have been identified as key to the proof of concept and testing activities. Since there are many types of solutions available in this emerging technology area, pinning an average cost on a hardware or software implementation is a tricky exercise; nevertheless, only smaller or limited scope implementations would normally cost less than six figures. Medium to larger scope deployments can cost a few to several hundred dollars. Organizations who have undergone such efforts have typically not added new staff to support the project or live system - but many bring on storage consultants, adding $50,000-150,000 to the cost of an implementation.
Action Item: Implementing electronic content management (ECM) systems in small phases will both increase ROI and seed valuable experience that can be applied to other areas of a business. Trying to bite off more than an organization can chew is a recipe for cost overruns, spotty returns and executive frustration which can lead to funding constraints down the road.