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Make your data storage greener: How data classification can help

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Tom Shields

In our digital age, data is the treasure of modern businesses. But not all data is equally valuable—after creation, much of it sits in the shadows, hardly touched. This data has a bigger impact on our environment than you might think. Thankfully, there’s a way to reduce this impact and make our data storage more eco-friendly.

Understanding data waste

It’s estimated that about 70% of the data we create is never used again. Think about all the emails, server logs, customer chats, and other data your company collects and never uses. We call this “data waste.” It’s this data that takes up space in data centers around the world, using inordinate amounts of electricity relative to its value, which contributes to our carbon footprint—our impact on the environment. All that less-useful data doesn’t have to sit on expensive, power-hungry storage arrays.

The bright idea: Data classification

Here’s where the bright idea comes in. We can sort our data into categories based on how important or useful it is. This sorting process is called “data classification.” Data classification provides metadata that helps us quickly identify and differentiate super-important data from data that can be stored in a smarter, greener way.

Finding the right home for lower-value data

After we’ve classified our data, it’s time to find its best home according to its utility. Heavily used “hot” data can certainly stay on a storage array in the data center. However, an automated tiering process can delete or move rarely accessed data, like old emails and old log files, to a place that uses less energy.

Using the public clouds: Tiering for a greener data solution

One environmentally attractive option for tiering lower-value data is the public clouds: AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Using the cloud as a destination for data tiering and storage is smart for a few reasons.

The cloud is often more sustainable: Public cloud data centers are built at a scale to be more efficient, and many use renewable or low carbon energy sources.

The cloud can be less costly: Tiering secondary data to object storage is a terrific way to spend less on storage while maintaining reliability and security.

The cloud can make your primary storage investments go further: Moving rarely used data to the cloud frees up space and energy for the data we use frequently.

A greener future: Your role

Data classification and cloud tiering promise a significant reduction in carbon footprint and data storage cost. So, what can you do? Start by socializing these ideas among the decision makers responsible for green operations in your organization. Encourage them to add these capabilities to their shortlist criteria for evaluating data storage technology vendors.

The right technology partner will help classify lower-value data and model the CO2 savings that you can gain by moving it to a less carbon-intensive infrastructure. They will also automate the movement of data to those locations to gain that savings and measure continuous improvement in your overall data storage carbon footprint.

In the end, we can improve the sustainability of our data storage practices by addressing data waste and its associated energy and carbon footprint. By spreading the word and acting to sort and store our data wisely, we take concrete steps toward a greener future.

To learn more about the data classification and tiering services that NetApp and its partners can provide, visit the NetApp® BlueXP® classification page.

Tom Shields

Tom leads a global team at NetApp working with industry analysts and influencers to guide and inform NetApp’s transformation from storage to cloud data services leader. He joined NetApp in 2005 after 10 years in various High Performance Computing and Storage product management and marketing roles with SGI and Sun Microsystems. Shields holds bachelor of science and master of business administration degrees from the University of Virginia.

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