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Perform a data purge to reduce public cloud storage costs

When you hold on to old data, cloud storage costs can become increasingly steep. Learn to let go with a formal policy for cloud data purges.

Because the price of public cloud storage is so low, there's a tendency in IT to never perform a data purge. But...

this is a mistake, as data sprawl can quickly become unmanageable. This can lead to serious operational errors, complicate legal compliance and erode cloud's agility. It can also drive up your cloud storage costs.

Older files are often the most difficult to properly purge from public cloud storage. But aside from any potential compliance issues, it's good to delete these files once they no longer provide value. The challenge is to determine the point at which you could, and should, remove them.

Build a data purge policy for cloud

The answer is to purge by policy. If an organization classifies all its cloud data into 30 different categories, it could apply different time-deletion policies to each. This automated process is more sophisticated than just time-stamping.

A data purge policy for cloud should first classify files that IT teams should never remove. Some of these might be related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or other national laws. Other examples include engineering computer-aided design files, and files and raw footage at media companies.

Decisions around a cloud data purge should hinge on business relevance.

Beyond that, decisions around a cloud data purge should hinge on business relevance. Most data is valueless after some period of time, so set policies for data types or user groups based on value. Create policies for outgoing employees, for apps that are no longer available and for files that are subject to daily, weekly or monthly updating -- chances are, you don't really need seven years of log files.

Even with policies in place, be careful with the purging process. One common issue is distinguishing between backup data and archives. Public cloud storage often comes in three tiers: primary networked storage at the top, followed by backup and then archiving for cold storage. It might make sense to move data down a tier, but these lower tiers tend to come with extended contract periods or early deletion fees -- all of which factor into the purging times you set for files. One option is to create multiple backup/archive storage buckets, each with an extended contract and its own unique purge time, rather than just tier and delete continuously. While this might complicate management, it should assure minimum cost.

Many backup services include one or more size reduction techniques, such as compression, deduplication or global data reduction. These save money in storage and transfer costs, so you should apply them to your stored data, whether in the cloud or in-house. This will also save money if there are early deletion fees for your cloud services.

This was last published in November 2017

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