New Tools For Finding Data And Documents Quickly

Content-addressed storage technology can help businesses preserve documents and find them easily
Red-Hot Market

In one of the curious dichotomies that happens primarily in the technology sphere, the market for what CAS provides is getting red hot just as the term is losing its luster. That's OK--storage and archiving are confusing enough without tossing in another term. We're less concerned with labels than with making sure you understand the ramifications of adding CAS technology to your archival strategy.

Let's do that by examining its main benefits: the ability to track changes to business data, which provides a verifiable method of ensuring that data hasn't been altered for legal-discovery purposes; the ability to use metadata to track disparate file types, which lets IT migrate data to appropriate storage media as needed and retrieve it efficiently; and the ability to remove duplicate data, which can save disk space.

>> Change tracking: By using change tracking, companies can show the evolution of a document. This is useful during legal discovery. Change tracking and content addresses are created from a hash routine, an algorithm that turns a variable-sized amount of text into a fixed-sized output that is used in creating digital signatures, hash tables, and short condensations of text for analysis. Because the paranoia police have declared hashing unreliable, nearly every CAS system allows for a new hashing algorithm to be applied if the one in use proves out of date. The hashing function is the primary bottleneck of a CAS system in terms of performance, but many vendors are dedicating hardware to hash- ing functions or conducting background hashing during nonpeak usage.

of organizations have had an e-discovery request in the past 12 months

Data: Enterprise Strategy Group
>> Metadata: When an enterprise has a rich metadata environment, the possibilities for search, categorization, and mining of vital data extend as far as the eye can see. Location-addressable operating systems don't store enough metadata to be useful in archiving. CAS serves as the foundation by which archiving operations can be performed. CAS addresses other problems inherent in long-term archiving--for example, media rot. Media rot isn't simply the degradation of physical storage media; it also defines the ephemeral nature of technology. CAS makes it easy to move data from one repository to another, be that disk, optical, or tape, eliminating most media-rot issues.

>> De-duplication: Data de-duplication--when only one copy of a given file is kept on the storage system--isn't yet universally available on CAS devices. That's unfortunate because the implications for the efficient use of storage and cost savings are clear. We recommend asking about it if you're considering a device with CAS functionality.

Although the technology has been around for years, CAS offerings are relatively immature. Just as with storage virtualization, it's not the storage that gives the real business benefits, but the software that works with specialized CAS storage systems. For the foreseeable future, CAS adoption likely will be confined to large enterprises and specific vertical organizations, simply because of the costs of implementation.

Illustration by Stone