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People Are Messy, And So Is Their Data

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By Author: Rayford Marks
Total Articles: 186
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Archiving is a tricky business... The problem arises from the fact that data as stored in two main forms, structured and unstructured.
Structured data is great! It’s nicely lined up and ready to be manipulated, processed, updated and archived when it is no longer needed. Typically it has existed as structured data for all of its life. Maybe its rows sat in a data base somewhere, or emails held by a Microsoft Exchange server. Yes we know, your inbox may not LOOK very tidy, but behind it there is a database that is working hard to store and organise the 10,000 items in your ‘Deleted Items’ folder which you are hanging on to just in case you need something from 3 years age (yes I do it too.. 12,392 items at last count).

You could even argue that the internet itself is a form of ‘Structured Data’. It looks pretty messy, but there are rules and guidelines, complicated as they may be. Otherwise how would your browser know how to render this article? Or you could even ask, how did you find this page without rules and structure? How does Google index the internet if it doesn’t ...
... have structure?

So, what is unstructured data? Well, it’s everything that doesn’t follow a defined set of rules. An example? That’s easy! Next time you are at work log on to your offices file server! Humans are messy.. very, very messy. What makes sense in our heads is complete and utter gibberish to someone else! A wonderful expression of this is the network file share we have all grown to love\tolerate\loath.

It’s a playground full of old office memo’s, spreadsheets from that sales pitch 8 years ago, photo’s of the office party (which you wouldn’t actually mind if they went missing) and umpteen other different things. The folder structure looks like someone dropped the server’s hard drives in a shredder and then fired the bit’s out of a confetti cannon.

The problem is that this unstructured data has value, almost incalculable value! What happens if the customer you pitched to 8 years ago comes back and asks you to quote again?? If you cannot find those spreadsheets, or worse still you have removed them in an attempt to clean up some older files you’ll have to start again without the edge that all that previous information gives you.

Speaking of cleaning up older unstructured data, how on earth do you go about doing it?? There are no set rules or structure you can use like you could if you were dealing with structured data. Do you just do a ‘Find All’ with modified date older than 6 years and hit the delete key hoping you’ll never need it again? You need to do something or that poor server’s hard drives are going to keep filling up. What about putting it ‘in the cloud’? After all there’s almost limitless storage available...
Sure, great idea! But that costs.. every month. And the more data you store the more expensive it gets. Plus are you sure the data’s secure? And what about things like the Data protection Act and the obligations it places on business to only keep data for as long as they need it?

What’s needed is File Archiving Software, a solution that grinds its way through that unstructured mess migrating files off to low cost storage (at last! a use for that old file server that’s been sitting under the desk since the last upgrade!).
Bu which one?? Just Google ‘File Archiving Software’ and you’ll see dozens of offerings from all manner of companies. From the monolithic giants of Symantec, to the smaller offering of the likes of QSTAR. But what if you have TB’s of files to trawl through and juts want something simple, scalable, and reliable and that won’t break the bank? I used to work as an IT Manager for a large firm of Accountants a few years ago. I was faced with exactly the same problem.
I spent weeks looking at all the different offerings and I couldn’t find anything that did what I wanted, let alone gave me nice features like links to archived files which looked EXACTLY like the original file to the end user. That’s why in 2002 I started writing Archive Manager from MLtek.

It was initially just for my own use but it proved so popular MLtek was formed and Archive Manager was released to the public in 2005. It is now in use with thousands of organisations round the world. Maybe it’s the solution both you and your poor server’s hard drives are looking for?
Mark Laverty

file archiving software

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