HP mounted an information explosion round table in London on Tuesday, saying there needs to more attention paid to information management, that paper documents should be digitally captured, and that unstructured information put in archives where better use can be made of it.
The pitch is that the quantity of digital information, particularly unstructured information, is exploding. IDC figures were used - thank you EMC for sponsoring those papers - to show this with exa-zetta-yotta-whateva-bytes of data heading our way over the next few years.
Coping with it is not the big problem now. It's actually making better use of the darn stuff we have already. Better decision making is hampered because paper documents exist in separate silos - technically called filing cabinets - and there are zillions of individual silos called .PST files containing mails and SharePoint collaboration files etc. The HP answer is to scan in the one and amalgamate the others into super silos or archives.
That's ironic, as scanning in paper docs adds to the information explosion problem - let's create more megabytes of the stuff.
Wiltshire County Council was cited as a user of HP TRIM, an electronic document records management system (EDRMS), whereby paper docs in HR and Environmental Services are scanned, classified and stored in an archive with the classification and other metadata making them electronically searchable.
The classification issue was crucial, with it being likened to a supermarket shelf map - try stacking goods on supermarket shelves without one. Forty filing cabinets were scrapped, 75 per cent of electronic files were found to be redundant and authority employees can answer citizen, Freedom of Information, legal discovery and compliance queries faster and more competently.
An Information management unit has been set up, separate from IT, and responsible for the council's overall information strategy. TRIM use is going to be expanded, trees saved, and citizens served better.
Brunel University is using an HP IAP - Integrated Archive Platform, the revamped RISS product - to put all university staff emails into a single archive once they are six months old. This was not originally a strategic move but a strategy developed in response to a pretty overwhelming problem; backups were taking longer than 24 hours using an old tape system which obviously couldn't cope - not an HP system, the spokesperson added. By archiving all emails more than six months old, backup run time has been reduced and half of the email primary storage capacity was retrieved and used for other things.
It became much easier to manage email quotas and to retrieve information in old emails by being able to easily search the now amalgamated .PST files. The IAP box is tiny, with four 1TB SATA drives, but the spokesperson could see archive capacity easily doubling, tripling or quadrupling as more data gets added in, such as student-to-student emails. He says Brunel will just add more IAP cells in a grid-arrangement.
Structure the unstructured
HP reckons that we have to bring structure to unstructured information so as to improve decision-making, and HP Labs is working on verbal and organisational ontological issues to turn, as HP puts it, information into insight. (According to Wikipedia, which is good enough for me, "ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences".)
That trustworthy risk mitigation kite was flown again as all the spokespeople and HP staffers mentioned the perils of making decisions with inadequate information. This brings us back to irony as we're supposed to be drowning in information, or soon will be, but we don't have enough of the stuff to make good decisions. We need more of it, and better organised, meaning more metadata as well.
For suppliers like HP the information explosion is a great big opportunity - bring it on - and it wants to sell more discs to store it, more software to manage it, and then sell more services to work out how to use it. ®