If I’m going to be completely honest, I would probably admit to using hyperbole more than once in my career. But to be fair to myself, I’ve only done it to make a point. And it’s always been done with an obvious layer of irony that makes it clear that whatever I said was said with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
The tagline for this new blog is ‘Best Practices for Tackling the Biggest IT Challenge of Our Time.’ In case there is any question about this, let me be extremely clear: this is NOT hype. Electronically stored information has been piling up at an explosive rate for the last two decades. If this same information were stored on non-electronic media, we would all be up to our necks in a sea of paper that stretched out as far as the eye can see.
This level of growth is not sustainable. We are building a giant house of cards and it will eventually come crashing down on all of us. (And for those folks who routinely point out that storage is getting cheaper and cheaper every day and so ask ‘Why not just keep everything forever?’, I’d like to point out that storage costs are indeed dropping over time, but not nearly at the exponential rate that new information is increasing. I also offer this study by Stanford Professor David S. H. Rosenthal, which calculates that the cost of a ‘save everything forever policy’ at the current rate of information growth would consume more than the entire Gross World Product in just over three years.)
Unfortunately, very few groups have any real incentive to promote the systematic, defensible destruction of this information.
Certainly, the product vendors don’t – they want you to buy more and more software applications to help manage these massive, growing repositories.
The hardware vendors don’t – they want to sell you a continuous stream of storage devices that pile up like gigantic, ridiculously expensive cords of wood.
The consultants don’t – the more information an organization maintains, the more complicated their line-of-business solutions become and the more hours a consultant is able to bill trying to manage it.
Outside counsel doesn’t – that information is easy e-discovery money when they are brought in to defend against an (inevitable) civil matter.
Even the giant search engines don’t – the more information you store, the more crawls they can run and the more granular (read profitable) their indexes become.
The only groups who want – and, in fact, desperately need – this information defensibly destroyed are the customers records management professionals support. Routine, defensible disposition of all forms of information is absolutely critical to the long term success of any organization. Destroying information pursuant to stated corporate policies makes an organization far more efficient, saves vast amounts of money and significantly reduces exposure to risk.
All of this has been demonstrated time and time again. But the truth is the vast majority of organizations rarely, if ever, engage in systematic, defensible information destruction. And so redundant, obsolete and trivial information continues to grow all around us like tribbles multiplying on the Starship Enterprise.
Most troubling of all is the fact that things will only get worse for the foreseeable future. The amazing capacity for creating and storing information in cloud environments is only beginning to take hold. New social media channels seem to spring up daily. Mobile devices and the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ continue to provide new, previously unimaginable sources of information. More than 90% of the information being stored today was created in the last two years. And that window is shrinking. At the current exponential rate of information growth, how much longer until that two-year window becomes one? Or one month? Or even less?
The defensible disposition of these staggering amounts of information has become the information technology challenge of our time. And it is a challenge that can only be met by qualified, forward-thinking records management professionals leveraging state-of-the-art technologies and next generation information lifecycle management methodologies.