This article was originally published on Business 2 Community.

Metadata Storage SolutionsIn a digital world, metadata attached to files may contain a lot more than you think. While metadata isn’t the actual file data, it is the data about the data, which can include author and copyright information, revision history, and comments, along with geotracking information and other descriptive attributes.

In business, the value of this metadata is in its archival and retrieval purposes. Like the Library of Congress Classification system used by libraries that house large volumes of information, metadata allows users and systems to organize and traverse large data stores.

By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created for every human being on the planet every second. There’s so much data that the metadata is often as or even more important than the actual data, providing clear points of association and file history.

Metadata assists organizations by making data more easily accessible and analyzable. It’s a series of labels that can be handled in a variety of ways. Businesses can increase agility and profits by enabling the access and analysis of data, and metadata is a critical component of that process.

From curing cancer to making cities run more efficiently, the possibilities of data analysis are limitless. To continue to evolve and move forward, we need to learn how to leverage the digital information we’ve compiled. Data can be a catalyst for change, and metadata is the key to sorting, analyzing, and locating data at will, transforming it into actionable information.

4 Ways to Employ Metadata

Metadata created by individual associations can optimize your business model for maximum efficiency. When all data is properly tagged, mass queries and algorithms can create new ways of grouping and searching data.

With cloud storage becoming more prolific, the cost of secure data storage versus the ability to process and navigate it becomes a balancing act. Using metadata to support data management and project requirements instills accountability and allows you to monitor data development. Here’s how to make metadata a focus for your business:

1. Increase storage space. Ideally, you’d have a limitless pool of scale-out storage to work with, but this isn’t always the case. You need space to store, sort, and analyze data; therefore, investing in a hybrid storage solution may be a good business decision. You can store the majority of your data in-house on scale-out storage in an economical fashion while migrating the subsets of data or metadata you want to analyze to a cloud solution, where you can spin up as many servers as you would like in order to analyze data quickly.

2. Attach metadata directly to objects. We recently streamlined the infrastructure for a large dating site. An entire layer of its database, application servers, and web servers was completely removed to reduce latency and radically simplify management. By attaching metadata directly to objects, the company was able to create a single layer of technology to scale. You need to ensure that the systems used to store, manage, and protect metadata can grow with the information coming in; otherwise, those systems could become brittle and unwieldy.

3. Innovate new uses. Once you get started using metadata, take the time to discover and learn new ways to utilize it. Start with mapping out the problem you are trying to solve, defining the information you need to solve your problem, and searching the metadata you’ve stored to see what associations can be made to achieve your goals. Just by going through this process, you will most likely find solutions to other questions you’ve pondered.

4. Practice metadata security. Whether you use metadata or not, it’s already being embedded into most of your data. Ensure proper access controls for your data. For critical data, use a “write once, read many” or another form of data protection that makes it impossible to delete or alter your data or metadata.

Just like tagging is essential for your e-commerce site to be discovered by search engines, metadata defines data to make it quickly accessible. As Sir Francis Bacon said in “Meditationes Sacrae,” “Knowledge itself is power.” And the most powerful companies of the future will be the ones that are able to organize and access their data the fastest so they can gain actionable insights.