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IT's hidden issue: Copy data

Copy data — when used as a term and not meant as an imperative — is a problem that every organization has, said Phil Goodwin, research director of IDC’s Storage Systems and Software research practice. Copy data is when multiple copies of files and documents and other electronic data are made for disaster recovery, business continuity, test, development, and backup reasons. Though helpful in some cases, it can also become an expensive problem when copy data sits in an organizations’ storage and slows down application performance.

IDC estimates that as much as 60% of the IT organization’s storage hardware budget is spent on housing copy data, Goodwin said. IDC also predicts that by 2018 IT will spend $51.37 billion on copy data.

“It’s a problem that probably every IT organization has, either because they copy data over and over and over out of essentially paranoia or they simply copy it and have extra copies as a result of benign neglect,” Goodwin said, adding that the copy data issue within organizations is often a “hidden issue” with the business side left in the dark by IT.

“If you have to deal with it on a manual basis [copy data] is ridiculously time consuming. It’s just not to [IT’s] advantage to bring it up [to the business] unless they have a way to deal with it,” Goodwin said. So many CIOs and IT organizations don’t.

Within the last five years, however, copy data management solutions have emerged that can help mitigate the pain of copy data, Noel Yuhanna, principal analyst at Forrester Research who serves enterprise architecture professionals, said in an email. Solutions from Actifio and Delphix, for example, are based on using a master copy of the data. Then from the master copy, virtual copies are made and changes to the data are tracked and updated.  Another copy data management solution from Catalogic Software creates a catalogue of all the copies of data an organization has and provides them with a dashboard to manage it.

Yuhanna said an alternative copy data management solution is sub-setting where a master copy is made but, instead of creating virtual copies, smaller copies of the master copy are made and only the data that is needed is retrieved.

Managing the copy data problem

So how can IT organizations stay on top of the proliferation of copy data in their organization, save money, and get a leg up with the business?

Yuhanna advises CIOs to first identify how much data is being duplicated and for what purpose. Then, identify how many copies of the same data are being used. If there are multiple copies of certain data, then that would be a good candidate for copy data management or sub-setting solutions, he said.

Addressing and finding a solution to the copy data problem would result in the CIO and IT organization saving money.

A reduction of copy data by 20%, would be a significant savings.

“The CIO can go to senior management contemporaries and say, ‘You know, we did this evaluation and found that we’re going to be able to save… $2 million on hardware savings’. That’s pennies per share for the CEO,” Goodwin said. “So when [CIOs] provide that kind of savings to the organization it really casts IT in a very positive light, that [the CIO and IT are] attending to their organization and delivering value and savings to the company.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.