Retention, retention, retention…

Some of you have the luxury of a regulation that ‘dictates’ what you should retain and for how long; unfortunately many are not so lucky. The great unregulated masses are looking for answers, answers that are still defined as, alarmingly, grey areas. Let’s face it; when you are retaining data you’re worried, and when you’re not retaining it you’re worried that perhaps you should be.

Retention- A dam holding back water

The struggle

Retention whether driven by regulation, policy, mandate or ego has been a struggle and if you’re trapped under the deluge of data (especially email) you have my sympathy, I’ve been there too. Probably the most tricky situation to deal with, is when you’re working with an unclear retention policy.

Often I find IT managers and CIOs adhering to email retention guidelines handed down to them by a lawyer rather than a technologist; and all too often the policy is trying, and failing, to balance risk against reward and, perhaps legal protection. Added to this complex advice on retention the CIO has to build a solution that fits and remains in budget, budget of course that is never based on an oft overlooked metric – VOLUME!

I would suggest that predicting how much email your users will send in the next ten minutes is hard, predicting that volume for the next ten years is almost impossible.

Good luck planning your hardware budget for that. Perhaps attempting to save cost on hardware is one of the reasons why retention policies can be so diverse, even within the same organization?

I think the uncertainty surrounding email retention will remain, I say this because I often find different retention policies in organizations regulated by the same authority – like I said; alarming, and open to legal interpretation.

It is estimated that this year mankind will create 1200 Exabyte’s (billion GB)  of information, and that’s up from 150 Exabyte’s five years ago; with that growth we’re all going to need a lot more disk to cope with our insatiable appetite to hold onto the past.

Disk may be cheap, but do you really want the hassle?

Retention policy or not, your users are going to keep on generating data. A clear, plain English, succinct and unambiguous policy makes life easier but you’re still going to retain the data.

Retention is here to stay, so everyday is a the start of a new five/seven/ten/many years (delete as necessary) for your data, whether driven by a policy or not. We should be thinking about this as a forever-project rather than a five/seven/ten/many year retention project.