Assets of any organisation are measured in different ways. They may appear on the balance sheet in the shape of reserves, stock or investments. Two key assets that do not appear on the balance sheet, however, are the value of the employees and the information resources, the bedrock on which the business is managed. One way to look at the value of the information assets is to consider the scenario where the data is not available, or lost:

- How could the management team make decisions?
- How would you support your customers?
- How would you know what to produce - would you have all the resources available?

Data is created and captured by applications and business processes that are critical to the operation of the company. In addition, the reliability and dependence on the system infrastructure is equally critical. This is the platform on which the information resides, within the storage devices of disks and tapes. In today’s digital world, more and more data will be created and it will have to be managed, kept safe and be available, in digital archives.

Managing the storage resources
There is always a richness of options and choices when it comes to identifying a way forward. There are practical parameters to consider, such as the cost of the investments and the confidence that new technologies have been tried and tested.

Examining the system infrastructure - how this is architected and managed - is a key first step that addresses the practical operational considerations. It enables organisations to buy time to determine how they will manage individual documents and transactions - the information content. Networking storage resources has proved to be of significant benefit; data can be shared more easily across applications, users have easier access to the information they require; and the utilisation of disk arrays and tape libraries dramatically increases from 30-40 percent to 70+ percent.

This process has led companies to consolidate their resources. It has enabled them to rationalise their IT data centres, maximise the returns from their networks and better control the vast amount of information found throughout the organisation. Consolidation has lead to many benefits:

- It has been possible to deploy tighter data protection practices - backup windows are reducing rapidly, with more and more users using Snapshot and disk mirroring technologies to enable fast recovery from any unplanned outages.
- By consolidating disk arrays and servers the rogue servers, with direct-attach devices that keep crashing because they are heavily utilised, can now be tackled. The data can be allocated across other networked disk arrays, giving a more reliable service to all the users.
- Consolidating the resources at different sites and networking the sites together is offering cost-effective disaster recovery processes. The options of outsourcing and utilising in-house disaster recovery facilities can be closely compared.
- Savings have also been realised with fewer server-based software licences.
- Staff motivation is increased as system managers and administrators gain job satisfaction when mundane tasks are carried out by automated processes.

Securing the operational risk
A strategy that addresses the system infrastructure is one that will support the business operations on a day-to-day basis. In many cases this has been shown as the vehicle by which trusted continuous operations can be supported all day, every day. The net outcome is that the information assets are secured and they can be balanced across online, and offline, resources. Policies and practices required to manage the infrastructure will enable large volumes of data to be moved and managed judiciously. Once the infrastructure is sound, the business units can identify which data and documents they need to keep for the long term. Which technologies and tools are best suited to support the infrastructure developments?

Fibre Channel has proven itself as a good transport protocol to deliver sound and reliable storage networks, where the management tools support the new data protection regimes of snapshot, backing up to secondary disk as well as moving the data to tape. Initially based around the data centre, storage area networks now are moving out into distributed locations where iSCSI will enable users to leverage their investment in IP.