– Kon Leong, CEO of ZL Technologies (http://www.zlti.com/), says:
The unstructured data elephant in the room is getting restless. We’ve ignored it for decades. Finally, we’re giving it some attention but it looks like anything we do seems to aggravate it.
It was a lot easier when all we had to worry about was structured data, mostly in ERP systems. But unstructured data, mainly comprised of textual and multimedia data, is a different beast altogether and much harder to handle. Consisting of “blobs” of information, it isn’t easy to store, let alone manage. And it’s all over the place – e-mails, files on desktops and servers, instant messages, images, multimedia, social media – and growing like weed.

As unstructured data problems surfaced, vendors crafted corresponding solutions. Around the year 2000, overloaded e-mail and file servers were solved by a storage archiving solution. In 2002, regulators demanded retention of e-mails and files in the financial sector, followed by healthcare, utilities and the public sector. In 2005, e-discovery solutions entered to help corporations prepare electronic evidence in litigation. Later in the decade, records management solutions cropped up to help extend records management policies from hard copy to digital content.

All these solutions provided some relief, but they were essentially ad hoc products, which created data silos. As the silos proliferated within the enterprise, they began to cause more problems than they solved. That’s because data silos suffer from three problems. First, silos proliferate duplicate data copies. Second, they each have their own search engine with different capabilities. Lastly, they each have their own retention policies. Combined, they result in redundant copies, inconsistent search and disjointed retention policies. What quickly follows is an effective loss of data control. If corporate counsel then swears that the data set produced is relevant and complete, he is more hopeful than confident.

The only long term solution to the silo problem is to unify the management of unstructured data across the enterprise onto one platform, storing one data copy, using one search engine and enforcing one retention policy.

Unifying information management is no simple project. But the alternative of keeping data silos magnifies the risk of unmanaged data, which is much like sleeping next to the unstructured data elephant – you never know when it’s going to turn over.

About the Author

Kon Leong is the CEO and co-founder of ZL Technologies which makes enterprise software to manage unstructured content such as e-mails and files. He is a serial entrepreneur, having founded companies in communications, storage and content sectors. He earned an MBA from Wharton and an undergraduate degree from Concordia University (Loyola).

About ZL Technologies

ZL makes software which manages unstructured content for large enterprises for corporate / regulatory compliance, legal discovery, and records and storage management on one unified platform. Effectively, ZL offers ERP for unstructured Big Data comprising of e-mails, files, and other textual and multimedia formats.