Understanding and Managing Disparate Data in Government

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report, “A Cost-Effective Approach for Managing Data in Government.” Download the full report here to learn more. 

When it comes to data management, one of the biggest challenges agencies face is storing an exorbitant amount of data.

As a 2018 Digital.gov article noted, “The U.S. federal government is probably one of the biggest (if not the biggest) producers of data. Every day, thousands of federal workers collect, create, analyze, and distribute massive amounts of data from weather forecasts to economic indicators to health statistics.”

So how do agencies effectively store data that supports decisions around programs, workforce, budget, security and other areas? And how do agencies decipher what data is worth storing?

“How do you make sure that you’re really storing the stuff that’s important to you and deleting redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) data that is no longer of use?” said Jonathan Alboum, former Public Sector Chief Technology Officer for Veritas. “If you can’t delete it, is there a way to at least offload that data to a less expensive storage to create cost efficiencies?”

These are the types of questions agencies must consider and use to drive stronger data management. As part of the Federal Data Strategy, there are 40 practices aimed at driving outcomes around data usability, shareability, privacy, security and transparency. The strategy notes the need for agencies to better align contract agreements with data management requirements for processing, storing, accessing, transmitting and disposition.

Plus, agencies must enhance data preservation in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, policies and approved records retention schedules. Certain files, such as health and research and development records have strict retention requirements.

Selecting the correct storage model for retention of data while accounting for escalating storage costs can be challenging, as can trying to gain visibility into the data an agency already has in its environment.

“What agencies must keep in mind is that infrastructure is important, but it’s the information that really matters,” Alboum said. “That’s why long-term storage and other data management capabilities are really important, to the extent that they give you access to the information that’s inside that data.”

The Solution: An Integrated LongTerm Data Retention Strategy

Not all data is created equally, and agencies’ data storage practices should reflect that reality. To take advantage of the decreasing cost per gigabyte of more modern data storage options both on-premise and in the cloud, agencies should consider the advantages of an integrated long-term data retention (LTR) strategy.

An integrated LTR strategy gives agencies a defined plan for modernizing the way they store and access data. It offers economic and productivity benefits, including the ability to eliminate uncertainties associated with the cost and hassle of restoring data from aging magnetic tapes or tape hardware if a natural disaster or emergency occurs.

By investing in an LTR strategy, agencies can also seamlessly move data to and from private and public cloud platforms with complete data visibility. They can also choose to store critical data on-premise on a resilient and scalable platform that aligns with government policies.

This approach, known as data tiering, should be a part of agencies’ LTR strategy because it gives them flexibility to manage varying data, based on sensitivity and regulatory requirements, how frequently it’s accessed and other factors. Consolidating storage using a tiered approach also reduces the administrative overhead of backing up and restoring many separate file systems.

Ultimately, a modernized long-term retention strategy that leverages cloud and commodity storage allows agencies to better plan for growth and variations across their data. It also empowers them to make smart decisions that improve citizen services.

To learn more about a cost-effective approach to managing data in government, as well as best practices, download the full report here.

Photo Credit: Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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