Together, we are creating unprecedented amounts of data. In 2010 Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003. On the face of it that might sound unlikely, but combine the world’s growing population and the proliferation of tools like smart phones which make it easy to create data, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
A data management headache
That data is photos, videos, the written word … everything from blog post like this to grainy YouTube videos to, well, anything at all! And while Google might be doing a decent job of organising information that’s online, many businesses are facing – or will soon be facing – a similar data management headache.
That’s because although business data has long been a key asset for companies big and small, the growing volumes of it make it harder to store, sort and retrieve when you need it.
The business data explosion is driven by the ability to capture more information about every aspect of your company. Sales and accounting figures, website tracking data, product information, photos and videos – these days, all can have exceptional (and some might say excessive) levels of detail.
Useful, if you can find it
What’s more, with a modern customer relationship management system you can record every detail of every transaction with a customer, helping you to deliver better service by knowing exactly who they are and what they probably want.
However, while all this data can be very useful, as the amount of it grows it can get cumbersome. It’s easy enough to find space for it, because computer data storage is pretty cheap these days. The problem is keeping it organised so you can quickly find what you need.
The key is to prioritise your most important pieces of data, making sure these are easy-to-find and properly backed up. It can be a good idea to divide your company information into three categories:
1. Legacy data
This is information that you only access rarely. Accounting records for previous years, old product details and so on can be safely archived, perhaps stored away on a separate hard drive. Of course, you still need to back up this data, but because it rarely changes, you can get away with running and testing backups less frequently.
2. Standard data
This is data which your business uses regularly or has created recently. It might include things like documentation, letters to customers, photos, website data and so on. Because it’s important to your business, standard data needs to be kept somewhere you can easily access it. You might organise it into logical folders on your network server, or keep it in cloud storage online. Many businesses are finding it also helps to make this data searchable, so people can find the file they want rather than having to remember which folder they saved it in.
3. Critical data
This information is absolutely key to the running of your business. It’s not just important that you can find it, but it’s important you can find it quickly. Critical data might include your current financial details, customer database or other information which is accessed by one of more people frequently, and where it really matters if you can’t get at it fast. Increasingly, businesses are storing this critical data on fast hard drives or even solid state storage (which can access data very quickly) and mirroring it in two or more places to ensure access.
If data in your business is growing fast, it’s best to think about how you organise and manage it before it starts becoming a problem. Because if your hard drives fill and you haven’t planned ahead, that’s when the data explosion really has an affect on your business.