There was a celebrated episode in the original Star Trek TV series called The Trouble With Tribbles which could serve as a fairly neat allegory nature of the data explosion we face in the world today. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the plot revolves around lovable furry creatures called Tribbles that emit a soothing purring noise. Unfortunately, they reproduce at a phenomenal rate to the point where they very quickly threaten to overwhelm the Starship Enterprise and its essential systems.
The trouble Kirk, Spock and co had with the Tribbles isn’t a million light years away from the issues many companies are having with their data, especially when you consider that as much as 90% of the data that exists in the world today has been generated in the last two years.
In addition to the usual data generation activities within companies in their internal systems, the data explosion is being driven by a number of additional factors, including online transactions, smartphones, tablets, social media, GPS systems, digital and video uploads and downloads, emails and texts.
One of the difficulties this presents, aside from the obvious one of where to store all the data, concerns how organisations can unlock the value of the data being generated and use it and how they ascertain what is valuable and what isn’t.
But there is another issue around how organisations can integrate devices such as smartphones and tablets, which are gaining in usage and popularity and likely to continue to do so with the arrival of Windows 8, into their data environment. This also presents organisations with the challenge of dealing with dynamic data (data that is moved in and out of the company to mobile devices and back again) and static data (data that remains within the precincts of an organisation’s infrastructure).
The amount of dynamic data is bound to increase as more and more mobile devices are deployed by organisations and information is disseminated to their employees and back to the parent operation. This presents an obvious security challenge but it also raises issues concerning synchronisation of company data and access to it.
Organisations want to have complete control of the devices accessing their data whether they are being used in the infrastructure or coming from outside it, and irrespective of whether they are using public or private networks. One means to achieve this goal is to put a framework in place that ensures the data is secure but can be distributed to relevant users. It also needs to enable the user to synchronise the amount of data he or she needs to have on a particular device.
But how can organisations consolidate their data and ensure they distribute the relevant information to the right people while maintaining control of the overwhelming amount of data inside the corporation? This is not an easy task, especially when there is no simple means to distinguish between data that is important to a user and that isn’t.
Organisations are having to try and define the criteria used to tag data they want to be able to percolate to users. It’s not an easy issue to resolve and most of them have yet to discover a universal central approach that can make it happen.
But there are areas where this level of control, synchronisation and defined access can be put in place and where it works. Take email for example. Some products can activate certain distribution hierarchies within an overall structure to ensure email attachments are distributed only to selected groups.
This can be managed easily on an individual or a group basis. Emails and attachments can be kept within the company or certain portions can be extended to mobile devices. Once they are set up, the synchronisation mechanisms are handled automatically without any user involvement.
Companies are looking for something similar for their data that provides a combination of data protection and device management. Many of them have employees that are already using products, such as DropBox or Google Drive, which have very little security and are completely outside the company’s control. What most organisations require is a mobile file management (MFM) solution that works in conjunction with a distribution mechanism and provides the level of security they need.
One of the major challenges companies will face as they are called upon to support many different devices will be the need to have a consistent mechanism to set up, secure and synchronise data with them.
The whole area of dynamic data and how to secure, synchronise and access it will become increasingly important as time goes on and the amount of data leaving any organisation through employees using mobile devices increases, possibly by threefold or even fivefold. Organisations will need to think about things such as retention rules that define how long data is available to devices and when it might need to be deleted to ensure those devices are not overloaded.
A company or organisation able to embrace this kind of infrastructure and technology will have a much clearer view of what data should be deployed to mobile devices, how it is being used and the changes made to it. It will be able to make that data more dynamic by sharing it outside the confines of the internal infrastructure and enabling it to be synchronised and adapted while maintaining its security.
With the correct use of more dynamic data, an organisation should be able to react perhaps two or three times faster than rivals because it will have almost immediate access to changed data and be able to make better informed decisions based on those changes. In other words, the organisation itself will become more dynamic as a consequence.