Reference data, which is data retained for referential purposes, is one of the fastest growing data types currently available. In fact, according to SearchStorage, reference data is increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 92 percent. Reference data can include any type of valuable reference information, including surveillance information, medical records, historical documents, images of checks, presentations, emails, contracts and more. Because this type of data is inherently different from traditional data, storage and management strategies must be different as well.
What to keep
Saving all of the reference data a business encounters is a waste of resources, and it makes organization difficult. That being said, experts caution against keeping too little data, since businesses can’t be certain of what the future holds. To determine what reference data to keep, businesses should consider what type of questions they will most likely need to answer in the future. If the business can see any potential use for a given document, it should not be discarded.
How to Store Reference Data
When storing reference data, businesses can choose between cloud storage and in-house data infrastructures. With an in-house data storage system, the business maintains all of its reference data using its own resources. Cloud storage, on the other hand, involves outsourcing data storage and maintenance to a third-party provider and accessing it via the Internet. Both of these options have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Cloud Storage Pros:
- Cost effectiveness. Cloud storage hosting is considerably less expensive than in-house alternatives. When a business stores reference data in the cloud, it doesn’t need to purchase expensive hardware and software programs, nor does it need to employ a large IT staff to maintain the system.
- Scalability. Cloud storage can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of a business at any given time. This means that the company will pay for only the storage it uses, and the company can alter the amount of space used as needed.
- Reliability. Because a third-party provider manages the cloud storage system, businesses don’t need to worry as much about system failures, especially if the provider offers 24/7 customer service.
In-house Storage Pros:
- Security. Because in-house storage systems don’t typically involve the internet, there are inherent fewer security risks. This can be an especially helpful feature if a business stores sensitive data, such as customer social security numbers or medical information.
- Control. Storing reference data in-house allows the business to have more control over how it is organized and who can access it.
- Protection from loss. When a business stores data in the cloud, the business relies on the cloud storage provider to protect data through regular back-ups and server maintenance. However, when cloud providers go out of business or experience unexpected server failures, important data may be lost. Storing data in-house eliminates this concern.
Because reference data can be so important to a business’s future, companies must store and manage it carefully. To get the most out of reference data, businesses need a clear data collection and maintenance strategy that includes a plan for selecting important reference data, as well as a viable storage and organization system.