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How to develop and implement a data storage plan

Planning is an important piece of IT. Examine the elements of a storage plan, how to prepare and implement the document, and the benefits of having one.

While the approach for data storage may be simple, organizations need a formal plan.

A data storage plan addresses what gets stored, the location, when storage activities occur, who is responsible for management, how much data an organization stores, what it retains and destroys, and how storage takes place.

Read on for more details about these important pieces of a storage plan.

What is a data storage plan?

A data storage plan covers all aspects of the process. The requirements in the data storage plan ensure the security and availability of the data and other information resources.

What gets stored. Data storage can be electronic or nonelectronic formats, including data files, databases, applications and any other relevant company information. Nonelectronic storage -- whether located on or off site -- will need a suitably equipped storage environment, with temperature and humidity control, access to light sources, transportation of the information from company offices to storage location, and physical security. Electronic data will use a variety of technologies, including hard disk drives, magnetic tape, solid state and flash drives, and optical storage. Discuss data requirements with internal users to help develop data storage plans.

Location of storage. Both on- and off-site storage are options. Often, a combination of the two is appropriate, depending on the data and its criticality to the organization. In addition to a variety of on-site storage media and storage network technologies, cloud storage has grown rapidly in popularity. It can reduce the footprint for on-site storage equipment, reduce capital investments necessary to acquire on-site storage facilities and provide multiple levels of data security.

When storage activities occur. Data storage occurs largely based on user requirements for storing and retrieving data. Data storage may occur right after processing or an organization may queue it up for later. Certain kinds of critical data -- such as customer transactions and updates to personal health data -- may need storage immediately after processing. This may necessitate more advanced storage technologies, such as data mirroring or replication. The data storage plan should spell out these requirements.

Who is responsible for storage management. Typically, a data storage team manages this process. Team members work with the storage metrics defined by user organizations and build those requirements into a daily storage plan.

How much data an organization stores, retains and destroys. Users help define requirements for these metrics. User management periodically reviews the metrics and the data storage team updates them.

The requirements in the data storage plan ensure the security and availability of the data and other information resources.

How storage takes place. For electronic data storage, this process takes place by moving the data from the source location to the destination. Transport media can include a LAN, SAN or a direct connection from the processing device to the storage device. Storage applications can efficiently manage data storage activities -- they validate that no data corruption occurred during transport and provide data security features including encryption.

Build and implement data storage plans

To identify storage requirements, interview users. The data storage team then develops the various processes described in the previous section with review by IT management and confirmation by user management. After approval of the plan, delineate the activities needed for the storage processes, storage media, storage locations, data transport media and other criteria.

If no storage activities currently exist, complete the process in a multiphase sequence of activities. This will ensure administrators properly configure all systems and processes associated with data storage and they perform as needed. If data storage activities already exist but there is no formal storage plan, document the existing storage activities and merge them into the storage plan.

As part of maintenance activities, schedule periodic reviews of the data storage plan and include it during exercises of data backup and retrieval. In addition, establish a process of continuous improvement.

Benefits of data storage plans

Protection of data, whether it be data files, databases, applications, communications resources or other information, is one of the cornerstones of IT management. IT auditors regularly examine data protection plans, which may include backup, storage and management.

Data storage plans specify the processes and procedures needed to ensure an organization can store all data securely and easily retrieve it.

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