State agencies continue to produce and accumulate vast quantities of data. The rapid proliferation of data and the legal and regulatory requirements to retain, manage, and protect it has created significant challenges for business and IT managers. Digital storage of information offers significantly more benefits than paper storage; however, the related management and administrative costs for digital storage are rapidly growing.
Also, new and dynamic forms of electronic data are emerging across government, such as
- third-party hosted services such as social networking sites and cloud solutions
- rich media such as pictures, videos, and podcasts
- data created on mobile and peripheral devices such as smartphones, tablets, and printers
Agencies must manage the digital footprint created by these devices and services. Some of these new data types should be addressed in agency policy while others may require directives through legislation. Agencies must be proactive to improve the management of data—from creation through disposition.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), the Records Management Interagency Coordinating Council (RMICC), and DIR will continue to collaborate and propose legislation, update administrative rules, and provide guidelines or best practices regarding these topics.
Benefits of Data Management
According to recent reporting, in 2009, the federal government had 848 petabytes (848,000,000,000,000,000) of stored data, which ranked second highest among the top industry sectors. At the time, former White House CIO Vivek Kundra urged agencies to prepare for an “explosion of new data” in the public sector. In Texas, part of that preparation is for agencies to develop effective data management practices, which also increase operational efficiencies and decrease storage costs.
Other benefits include
- protecting the privacy of confidential data
- decreasing the likelihood of a security incident due to human error
- ensuring appropriate level of access
- building a foundation for data sharing
- reducing the cause of erroneous data used for making business decisions
- continuity of operations
- compliance with record management policy
Path to Data Management
Effective data management is the responsibility of all agency employees, not just the IT organization. To develop sound business practices for managing data, agencies should focus on
- reducing duplicate, transitory, or inappropriate data
- developing effective records management policies
- administering practical data management processes
- preserving data future use
Data management processes should be built into all phases of a project life cycle. For many projects, a sizeable amount of temporary or duplicate data is created and stored in various formats, conventions, and locations. Without clear policies and practical processes, this data may be improperly retained, leading to
- unnecessary storage costs
- unstructured data
- obstacles to open records requests, e-discovery, and other issues
- unclear knowledge management procedures
REDUCE DUPLICATE, TRANSITORY, OR INAPPROPRIATE DATA
Electronic storage is a significant budget item for most agencies. Whether agencies decide to expand on-premise storage capacity or explore options through shared or hosted services, the costs continue to rise. In general, when agencies need more storage, they seek to increase storage space rather than decrease storage volume. However, to keep the related costs of storage at a sustainable rate, agencies should review their current environment to reduce the volume of data in their possession.
Agencies should consider not storing the following types of data:
- personal emails on agency accounts
- personal documents
- personal downloads from the Internet
- duplicate files
- email, documents, and files that exceed the retention schedule
DEVELOP EFFECTIVE RECORDS MANAGEMENT POLICIES
Every agency has its own records retention schedule that is approved by TSLAC, which applies to both physical and digital versions of data. Details on records management policies are described in Texas Government Code, Chapter 441 (TGC 441), on the Libraries and Archives Commission and 13 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 6 (13 TAC 6) on State Records.
According to TGC § 441.185, agency records retention schedules must
- list the state records created and received by the agency
- propose a period of time each record shall be maintained by the agency
- provide other information necessary for the operation of an effective records management program
Effective records management policy goes beyond compliance with statute and administrative rule. Agencies should evaluate their records retention policies to determine if they are adequate for both compliance and business needs. Assessing the effectiveness of current agency records management policy might include
- convening a cross-functional data governance workgroup
- designating owners for specific types of files, applications, and databases
- reviewing data classification and life cycle
- inviting TSLAC to review the effectiveness of agency policies
Within the policy, agencies should also include other electronic record-related issues, such as
- structured versus unstructured data
- data redundancy
ADMINISTER PRACTICAL DATA MANAGEMENT PROCESSES
Agencies may have high-quality records management policies, but without practical and thorough processes, these policies can be difficult to implement. Every type of agency-produced data should have a manageable life cycle—from creation, to initial storage, to permanent storage, to disposition, to disposition accounting, to recovery—detailed in their record management policy. For each step of the life cycle, agency staff should have clear and repeatable processes to follow.
Agencies must pay particular attention to legal and regulatory requirements for managing data. According to TGC § 441.187, a record cannot be destroyed if it is involved in any of these actions:
- open records request
- administrative review
Furthermore, state and federal courts require records to be preserved if a judicial or administrative action is reasonably foreseeable, even if the action is not yet initiated. Each agency Record Management Officer should provide guidance in the proper implementation of these requirements.
PRESERVE DATA FOR FUTURE USE
While the value of preserving data may not appear to be a current priority, it is critical for future agency use. Preservation of data has at least two components:
- adopting non-proprietary document formats
- incorporating restoration as a key component of a data backup strategy
There are advancements in open standard products for productivity software, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases. Files using open standards can be read by most products in the marketplace, and agencies need to consider enterprise solutions for how they will preserve data appropriately for use in the future.
Traditionally, agencies use backup tapes to copy original data for disaster recovery purposes. As the technology of storage devices evolves, agencies need to have a restoration plan to ensure that future technologies are backwards compatible to interpret the method used by current devices. For example, how do agencies read floppy disks now that the technology is obsolete? Agencies need to factor in a restoration strategy as they improve their backup technology.