Clairvoyance isn't a job requirement in IT, but perhaps it should be. Today's IT managers and their many applications struggle with the unenviable task of guessing the ownership, importance, relationships, and value of their organization's digital assets because business personnel/applications share little information with the back-end IT processes--such as backup and archive--that support them. Consequently, creating an archive that contains mostly valuable assets with as little garbage/waste as possible is unnecessarily difficult and costly.
In other words an archive is only as valuable as the information selected to be stored in it. Without sufficient information sharing many organizations are left to guess at what should be archived and what should be discarded. Too often they choose to "save everything"--a strategy than can be even more costly in the long-run.**
Business applications are rich with precisely the sort of metadata that would enable IT to shift from guesswork to fact-based asset management if only the data were more easily shared between business and IT. Sharing is achieved by way of openness both in the business application layer (to enable metadata pass-through to back-end processes) and in the storage layer (to customize/configure an archive to accept more than just individual files).
Going forward, repositories should be designed to be as open and extensible as possible to accommodate the diversity of information assets and metadata. Business application developers must take responsibility for their designs and make it easier for information assets and corresponding metadata to flow down into infrastructure applications to be culled, backed up, and archived.
However, it is up to business and IT stakeholders to determine which information must be shared/stored and identify/adopt the business and infrastructure applications capable of sharing/storing it. Only then will IT managers have the detailed insight necessary to ensure that their organization's archival resources aren't wasted.
Action Item: Organizations must first identify the types of information assets and value-enhancing metadata that should be archived. Stakeholders are the number one resource for this information. At least one representative from each group within the company should have an opportunity to make a case for the data the group believes must be archived (or discarded) and why. It is then up to the organization to identify and transition over time to business and infrastructure applications that fully support its diverse information assets and metadata from its front-end down into its backups and archives.
Footnotes: **Imagine terabytes and eventually petabytes of non-value-add information assets consuming precious storage resources. Consider the CAPEX and OPEX impact of archiving information waste for any length of time, and its long-term operational artery clogging effects.