Ask a business how efficient it is in its storage processes and the odds are it can't tell you. Ask it how effective it is in its real estate operations and it will tell you, after a head office flack looks at a spreadsheet, it's spending £482.53 per head per year on real estate.

Fine. How much are you spending per terabyte of data per year? It can't tell you unless it's a small business with less than 50 or so servers or unless it has a totally outsourced IT operation and storage has a separate line entry on the bills.

Ask it how much effective it is at logistics. No problem. Another head office flack will power up Excel and tell you that it's spending £0.63.25 per widget per journey. Ask it how effective it is at its people costs. HR wil tell you before you have finished asking the question that the average wage/salary/grossly inflated director's compensation package across the company is £21,524.65 per year. No problemo.

But storage.....I mean.....wow.....that's a tricky one. I mean, we have so much of the darn stuff and it's like, everywhere. Do you mean just disks? No, of course not, you mean tapes too, silly me. I guess we'd have to include all the CDs and DVDs too; and then there are those USB thingies, the thumb drives whatever....

We're told constantly that we're drowning under a sea of expensive global data. It's a storage pandemic and we need ILM products to store data on the most cost-effective tier...yadda yadda.

I'm sure we do. But there's been an epic failure of storage resource management here. Consider this: no SRM product anywhere on earth can tell you the cost of storing digital data in your enterprise.

Well, no surprise there boy, it ain't centralised, is it? Manufacturing is centralised and HR is centralised and real estate is centralised but storage (purchasing) isn't. SRM packages don't account for all the multifarious storage devices in a business and nor do they measure how much of that beautiful pristine empty storage real estate is actually used. We're in an astonishingly primitive state really.

It's not practical at all to benchmark different businesses on their storage effectiveness. We have micro-SRM monitoring: how much a database's storage costs; how much a SAN costs; but we don't have a macro-SRM capability at all.

My guess is that macro-SRM won't be possible until all or virtually all of a business' storage is bought centrally and administered centrally. Macro-SRM will depend on WAFS, FC and iSCSI SANs and NAS filers for it to come into being.

Forget USB thumb drives; you'll never get a reliable and accurate storage picture of those devices across your enterprise. Laptops maybe; once they link in to the network you can monitor their storage state with the right software.

Let's not get depressed though. Go back twenty years and ask a business, any business, how much it cost it per year to store paper files and you would throw the accountants into a tizzy.

Wow ... like .... I guess you mean on shelves ... and those lever arch things .... but then there are those neat plastic envelopes ... say, doesn't each office, I mean each department, have its own stationary budget? Some of that will be for paper file storage ... err, could we get back to you? Next year maybe?

Business may be operating in the dark with storage costs but there's much more light around these days than there was twenty years ago. We're not flying so blind.