Organizations are all together greatly dependent and inundated by the digital information they are producing. From the skyrocketing number of files being stored, to Big Data analytics, the multiple formats and ways in which information is organized has never been more important. IT managers have to manage information in such a way that it doesn't break the bank, while keeping it available for daily productivity needs, as well as periodic eDiscovery and compliance activities.
To see how businesses are faring when it comes to information retention, Symantec recently conducted the State of Information Survey, according to which the volume of business data in Indian organizations is expected to grow 67 percent in the next 12 months. The survey also revealed the growing importance of digital information, which respondents said makes up 51 per cent of the organization's total value. However, with data volumes spiraling rapidly, 60 percent Indian businesses are struggling to effectively manage and protect their digital information. Information retention is therefore becoming a key area of focus: if organizations know what to retain, and how, they will be able to control the volume of data that they are storing, and also find what they store more easily. The challenge today is similar to the hoarders' dilemma. Merely storing data indefinitely is a burden; storing the right information, ensuring that it is available to the right people at the right time and managing it effectively are the cornerstones of good information retention practices.
Unfortunately in India, organizations are yet to achieve optimal levels of information discipline. More than a third (38 percent) of business information in Indian organizations is duplicate, contributing to one of the top challenges associated with information management. More than 39 percent of organizations aren't aware of the level of importance to the business of the information they are storing, or even if it's business or personal information. More than 43 percent don't know how old information is and 40 percent don't know who owns it. This lack of information understanding is resulting in businesses spending more than necessary on storage - globally 60 percent of enterprises spend more than $100,000 per year on their storage infrastructure. In addition, 63 percent of information is hard to find, further contributing to the sea of information that is challenging businesses today. All this complexity is having an impact where it hurts them most: rising costs, reduced productivity and greater risks.
The Need to Produce Information on Demand
One of the most important reasons to improve information retention practices is to deal with legal and compliance requests for electronically stored files. This is still a serious challenge for businesses, with 78 percent of businesses in India missing compliance requirements.
According to Symantec's latest State of Cloud Survey, with growing regulatory and internal compliance frameworks, two-thirds of Indian enterprises are concerned about not only meeting compliance requirements, but also proving it. However, nearly half (47 percent) have been fined for privacy violations in the cloud within the past 12 months. Organizations are performing equally poorly on the eDiscovery front: three-quarters of those who have received requests (76 percent) missed deadlines for delivering the requested information, potentially leading to fines or compromised legal positions. What's worse, 34 percent never found the requested information.
Retention Practices Are Not Meeting Beliefs
Despite stated beliefs about what information to retain; real-life practices differed significantly. This is particularly significant in situations when the legal requirement to hold on to certain files has passed, and holding on to the files further can be detrimental in case of legal proceedings, as they must still be produced if they are in the organization's possession. Other challenges caused by storing too much information include higher costs and more time required for reviewing information, and a higher overall risk of confidential information exposure. The survey also found that even when files are deleted; it is often done without reference to actual information retention policies.
Legal hold is also affected by the kind of storage being used to preserve information. Unlike backups, archives are designed to be easily searched, but globally more than half of respondents (56 percent) to the Symantec Information Retention Survey indicated that they are using backups for indefinite storage, up significantly from last year. And the vast majority of businesses (85 percent) are using backups for legal hold, which makes it more complex to access files needed. This is even more serious considering that 34 percent of information is actually unnecessary to keep because of the legal risks it poses.
New Laws and Regulations Are Affecting Businesses
The vast increase of information - and ways to share it - has led to increasingly strict and complex information security laws. Just over half of organizations say this is having an effect on their ability to archive data and produce it for eDiscovery needs. They now report collecting electronic information for litigation needs, internal investigations and compliance, as well as local and international laws and regulations.
Making Information Retention Work for You
An effective information retention plan begins with a defensible mindset, allowing files to be deleted in accordance with polices to reduce total storage and eliminate unnecessary risks. A plan should begin with a few select policies such as removing files that are obviously not needed, and a sensible retention period. More policies can be added as the plan is refined.
Technology can help simplify retention through automation, providing consistent application of policies and keeping files more secure. A unified eDiscovery solution may also be appropriate, one which prioritizes the legal hold process to override file deletions that can cause potential litigation concerns. Finally, businesses should implement an archiving solution to handle eDiscovery requests. This improves responsiveness to requests and greatly simplifies the search process. Deploying the right solution in conjunction with the proper policies applied throughout the organization can help businesses deal with the overwhelming amount of information they are creating, and improve their legal position. Again, let your information work for you, and not against you.