There was a time, and it was less than a decade ago, when we used to store things in boxes, on shelves, in big rooms.
For businesses, reducing storage needs involved a lengthy session with the shredder, leaving several bags of waste and some empty floor space, ready to fill up again with the next five years' worth of ledgers.
Today, we have successfully transplanted many paper-based business processes to computerised forms and applications, helping save trees, but increasing our stock of digital data.
There are new pressures in the form of email, instant messaging, websites and customer demographic data, all of which are constantly growing.
As a result we store more data than ever. And as the number of sources grows, the harder it is to prioritise what to keep and what to discard - and that's before we even start to think about actually sorting through all this mass of information.
To complicate matters further, there is general confusion about how long data must legally be kept. For companies investing in storage, this presents one of the biggest headaches.
Concern about compliance with legal and regulatory demands leads many to err on the side of caution, keeping everything without setting a shelf-life.
Such a scenario is simply not practical long-term. Not only does it prevent a company from placing any kind of ceiling or budgetary constraint on the cost of storage, it becomes impossible to plan for staff and infrastructure needs.
Storage spending is being fuelled by an ever-decreasing cost per gigabyte for hard disks, and inexpensive Raid arrays that can be set up on even the most basic of hardware thanks to operating systems such as Linux.
As with so many corners of the IT industry, the advent of broadband and the collapse in prices among large data carriers has made it possible to outsource your storage problem to a third party, which can manage and physically house your data with specialist facilities.
Convenience and low cost are usually the two things we ask from all of our IT resources, but seldom receive.
While storage delivers just this, companies are continuing to take advantage of the convenient and cheap quick fix of throwing in another disk to solve short-term demands, rather than addressing the larger, and costlier, issue of actually managing and keeping demand for data storage under control.
In this Special Report, we take a fresh look at how you can manage your data, your storage and your costs.
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