Today’s CIOs must examine their data storage strategies

dataAs business technologies evolve over time and companies find themselves with more and more data on their hands, the need for better storage strategies becomes clear. Corporations’  tech infrastructures are loaded with countless types of files in this day and age. They’re collecting information on employees, customers and business clients. They’re using it for human resources, marketing, customer service and more. They have so much information on their hands that it becomes difficult to know what to do with it.

Unfortunately, the bulk of this burden falls on chief information officers. CIOs are forced to juggle myriad tasks these days, ranging from computer security initiatives to data analysis, and storage is one that sadly often goes overlooked. Perhaps in the old days, a company could just toss all of its information onto one server and be done with it, but as corporate IT continues ballooning in size, this starts to look less realistic.

The data storage question has no easy answers, but one way or another, CIOs must take it seriously. Information Week recently covered this topic, delving at great length into the question of how companies can budget the time, money and space for their storage needs. Michael Klayko, chief executive officer of technology investment company MKA Capital, asserted that data storage should be treated like just another item on the monthly stack of bills – in other words, like a utility.

“Water and electricity are both common utilities,” Klayko wrote. “You can get water from any fountain, tap or hose. The same goes for electricity – plug into any outlet and get the power you need. As a user of this utility, you don’t have to worry about how water or electricity is delivered. You just access what you need, however and whenever you want it. Why should storage be any different?”

Klayko’s principle is a simple one. Companies and their CIOs should have customizable channels for accessing their data. The goal should be this: Make it as easy as possible for companies to access any file they need, whenever they need it. (And if possible, try to keep costs down, too.)

So what’s the best strategy? There are a few possibilities, and CIOs must choose the option that works best for them.

Doing it in-house
For companies that are smaller or have dedicated staffs that are adept with handling large amounts of data, it might be possible to handle all data storage responsibilities in-house. The benefits of this are clear – companies seize control of their data for themselves, and they can customize their storage options perfectly to their liking. There are drawbacks, though. Large amounts of data can get unwieldy, making it difficult for a company’s in-house talent to manage it effectively.

Opening data warehouses
If companies need to keep their data elsewhere, they might consider opening large data centers in remote locations. Big corporations have recently seen a need for this – for example, Forbes reported in May that Sears was closing down some of its retail store locations and reappropriating the real estate for use as data storage centers. That’s an extreme measure, and it harms Sears’ selling power, but it might be necessary for companies with massive data stockpiles.

Using cloud-based software
The third option, and one that’s rapidly emerging as the most popular, is the use of cloud-based software for managing data online. The key letters here are SaaS – software as a service. By using SaaS solutions to manage their information, companies have a customizable resource that’s easily scaled to fit their needs. According to Forbes, Gartner projected that the market for SaaS was worth $14 billion as of the end of 2012. Companies everywhere are showing a willingness to spend on effective cloud solutions.

One way or another, companies must find a way to store all the data they’re working with. It’s up to each individual CIO to find the method that works best.

Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for CIOs.com. She has an educational background in languages and literature. She covers IT trends and executive technology management topics for the company.