Asemio on Data Problems: The Journal Record

Data dilemma: Companies must figure out how to store, use mountains of information

By: Ray Tuttle
Journal Record

TULSA – Effectively managing and storing data in a smart way are growing challenges in business, three data system entrepreneurs said.

A strong records management program, backed by a resolute analytics process, is crucial to using data efficiently, said Aaron Bean, a software analytics specialist and partner in Asemio, a Tulsa-based information consultant company that helps organize and retrieve data.

“Unstructured data is growing at a rate of 62 percent each year,” Bean said, referring to a study by Boston-based International Data Group.

“The best example is email,” he said. “There are facts, dates and figures within email, but there is no rhyme or reason to how it is stored.”

Companies are filling virtual warehouses with data that is used for legitimate business reasons, said Fred Menge, who is a records management specialist and president and CEO of Magnir Group Inc., a Tulsa-based data security and information management service company.

That information is sometimes called big data.

Menge said that unstructured or big data is information without a home.

“It depends on what is relevant, or what is needed in a business,” Menge said. “You may not need sales or marketing information, for example, or the emails that say, ‘Let’s do lunch.’”

Data collecting has become an asset for companies and nonprofits, Bean said.

They use it to gauge peoples’ behavior, gain insight into buying habits or improve productivity, Menge said.

Gathering too much data can lead to problems, however.

“Harvesting data is a must in today’s fast-paced business world,” Menge said. “But doing things such as moving, storing, processing and deleting also needs to be priority.”

If it is handled right, you can mine it and extract marketing information, Menge said. For example, a car rental company would look for the top vehicle preferences at a popular vacation destination.

“In Orlando, a red minivan was by far the most popular, so they would stock as many as they could at that location,” Menge said.

A problem occurs when the amount of data becomes so large it becomes difficult to find specific information in a timely manner, Menge said.

“A company can put itself at legal risk if it is sued or sanctioned,” Menge said. “If they cannot produce data within a certain amount of time, there can be consequences.”

Most companies’ default mode is to do nothing, Menge said.

“They simply decide to buy another hard drive,” Menge said.

Yet, having big data is not necessarily a big problem, said Gavin Manes, CEO and founder of Tulsa-based Avansic, an electronic discovery and digital forensics company.

“Amassing large amounts of email or having a pile of Word documents is not generally considered a problem,” Manes said. “However, having unorganized or undocumented databases with millions of records is a big data issue.”

Big data means different things to different people, Manes said.

“The most common example is tracking information like an individual’s browsing or shopping history,” Manes said. “As applied to the legal industry, big data is large, uncategorized, difficult-to-process swaths of information.”

Big data becomes an issue when information technology crews cannot convert it to an electronic document, Manes said.

Avanic is focused on electronic discovery, or e-discovery, in which data is searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case. So, being able to convert information to a readable form is basic to the company’s mission.

It is far more economical to address big data in advance of litigation through corporate culture or policy changes, Manes said.

“Corporations should evaluate what type of data the system retains and for how long,” Manes said. “They should determine the most likely type of data to be requested for the most likely type of litigation and create a method to handle big data.”

The best legal defense for businesses is advance preparation and possibly finding outside consulting assistance, Manes said.

Menge advocates taking a proactive stance.

“It starts with educating people,” Menge said. “With email, it is as easy as hitting the delete key.”

Determine the records the company must retain for legal reasons, Menge said.

“And that might mean taking records out of the inbox and putting them in archives for the life of their legal expectancy,” Menge said. “It requires training, awareness and changing the culture in a company.”

 

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