This article was originally published on Alley Watch.
There has never been more data in the world than there is today. About 90 percent of it was created in the last two years alone, and another 2.5 quintillion bytes are added every day. And keeping that data accessible and searchable is a real headache.
But with metadata, businesses can organize, index, find, and use content with much greater ease.
Metadata is data about data. It is what turns a piece of data into actionable information, enabling the analysis and resulting association between vast amounts of data. And when combined with object storage solutions, metadata can drive real data efficiency in any business.
The Happy Marriage of Object Storage and Metadata
Object storage offers continuous data protection with little administrative effort, and it can scale to exascale levels. But perhaps the greatest benefit it provides to IT managers and entrepreneurs is the ability to manage data through metadata.
So what does metadata bring to this marriage? There are five clear benefits:
- It eliminates ambiguities.
Not all data sets are phrased identically. While one set might refer to “clients” and “revenue,” another could mention “customers” and “sales.” And these differences can cause real problems when trying to pull data sets together. Types of problems could involve something as minor as a difference in data word use: Say you were searching for your highest sale to date, but you have two different data sets — one refers to sales as “revenue,” while the other refers to sales as “sales” — your data would be completely off. Metadata reconciles the problem by removing those ambiguities. This makes it easier to establish the relationships between people and organizations across applications. A customer described as “beneficiary” in one database and “participant” in another can create cross-referencing problems, but metadata helps clarify the situation.
- It creates a data trail.
By storing auditable information on data creation, deletion, and change, metadata offers companies important insight into a data set’s life cycle. It records the date and time of any changes and which user authorized them.
These might seem like minor details, but they are essential pieces of information when something goes wrong. If a data analyst can establish the point at which a mistake was introduced, he or she can tackle the consequences with greater ease and efficacy and potentially improve processes to minimize the potential for similar errors in the future.
- It improves risk profiling.
Data breaches and compliance violations are every company’s nightmare. According to IBM and Ponemon, the average data breach in 2014 cost $3.79 million, up from $3.52 million the previous year.
But metadata can help tackle this problem. By helping companies identify risk and more effectively monitor data holdings, metadata allows businesses to remediate problems as quickly as possible and mitigate the potentially devastating costs.
- It establishes more efficient storage uses.
With so much new data created every day, the storage costs have the potential to spiral into billions of dollars. To prevent this, organizations need to identify and remove stale, orphaned, and non-approved data.
Primary storage is a valuable resource, and wasting precious space on records that are incomplete or outdated is a costly error. Metadata can be used as an essential tool in the fight against inefficient storage. By facilitating the identification of useless data, it allows businesses to keep their primary storage units efficient and optimized.
- It eases migration.
Of course, not all worthwhile data needs to be instantly accessible. And once a company has scrubbed its files of orphans, it might find it still has too many files to store.
Metadata can help here, too. While some data might require daily on-site access, other data could be migrated to backup storage units, and metadata makes it easier to distinguish between the two categories. So not only does it help businesses identify which data to keep and which to delete, but it also helps establish where kept data should go.
Each benefit drives the shift toward cloud-storage solutions, enabled by object storage. Eighty-two percent of companies report saving money by moving to the cloud, and global cloud storage revenues are predicted to exceed $4 billion in 2016. Cloud solutions provide secure and accessible data storage, and metadata is a fundamental part of that. It ensures data integrity, security, and privacy on a system where multiple people interact with personal and business information.
Where older data stores were often cumbersome and inaccessible beasts, cloud solutions use metadata to ensure that data is easily accessible without compromising on security. Many businesses today are still struggling with the huge growth of unstructured data, but it doesn’t need to be this way. As the volume of data increases, metadata becomes an ever more critical tool that allows organizations to find the information they need.
Forward-thinking businesses must get ahead of the game. An object storage solution provides strong metadata capabilities, the possibility of limitless data storage, and the peace of mind to know that information is versioned and accessible when needed.