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  • For the Record: Answering the quandary of digital records

    “Storage is cheap and plentiful, so why can’t I keep my electronic records forever?”
      
    flohrThis vexing question has been the scourge of Records Managers for the past decade.
     
    On the surface, it seems intuitive.  

    Moore’s Law – a maxim predicting the number of transistors per circuit will double every two years – has proven remarkably prescient.  Thus, the inverse correlation between storage capacity and cost leads many to naturally question why electronic records management matters at all.   

    To help answer this question, let us first consider some key trends. Recent studies on electronic records found the following:

    Storage capacity increases over 60 percent per year while content management improves less than 10 percent per year
    Probability of reusing data falls by 50 percent after the data is three days old; after 30 days the probability of reuse is less than 10 percent
    For every dollar spent on storage hardware, another $5 to $7 will be spent to maintain those systems over their lifetime
    Up to two-thirds of IT budgets are now allocated to data storage management

    In short, unlimited storage capacity leads to increased costs to maintain terabytes of poorly managed and rarely accessed information.  One remedy is consistently applying the records retention schedule to electronic records (remember content, not format, defines a record).  

    This important step could save Pima County hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few short years.  

    To illustrate, consider a simple cost-avoidance scenario.  An organization plans to acquire an additional $10,000 in storage capacity with an expected operating cost of $5 for each dollar spent on hardware (i.e. $50,000 per year).  

    Assuming a service life of five years, this acquisition will cost more than a quarter of a million dollars.  However, controlling the growth of electronic records through proper management could eliminate the need to purchase additional storage saving the organization $250,000 over five years.

    Popular notions of cheap electronic storage are negated when “save everything” is the prevailing mindset.  

    Fred Moore, an industry expert, said it best when he opined, “accumulating data indefinitely without implementing retirement or retention policies can turn storage management into waste management.”  

    Please feel free to direct any questions or comments to Eric Flohr, Records Division Manager, at 351-8466 or eric.flohr@pima.gov.        

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