Jason Atchley : Data : Why Dormant Data is a Bigger Risk than It Seems

Jason Atchley : Data : Why Dormant Data is a Bigger Risk than It Seems

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Why dormant data is a bigger risk than it seems

Image via mrmanc on Flickr.
Fifty percent of the data your company stores probably lacks business, legal and regulatory value. Worse, the total number of an average company’s unstructured data is growing at 60 to 80 percent per year. This data introduces costs and security risks to your IT environment, eats up space in your primary storage and prevents you from making business decisions based on data-driven insights. These issues may seem like inconveniences, but added together, they make dormant data a serious threat to your business and a major obstacle preventing you from transforming data insights into business value.
If this problem sounds familiar, you’re not alone. End users are notorious hoarders when it comes to file versions, disorganized filing systems and sticking with a save-it-all mentality. We can’t blame you for succumbing to the data deluge; the more dormant data you’ve piled up, the more of an undertaking it will be to sift through it, and the more you may begin to fear what lies beneath the surface.
It’s time to stop underestimating the nuisance created by dormant data and start recognizing it as a critical risk that must be addressed. You deserve to know what’s in your data. If you need help getting started, below are some steps that can help get you on track and bring your dark data into the light:
  • Determine which users are consuming the most space
  • Highlight which files haven’t been accessed in months, or even years
  • Locate personal data like hefty music and video files that employees may have saved, even employees who may have since left the company
  • Neutralize risks by locating and securing sensitive and private data
By leveraging data-aware technology, you can quickly visualize and filter files in order to determine their value. However, meeting these primary goals doesn’t mean your effort is over. Educate your team on best practices that help them understand the value of data and better manage its lifecycle, using strategies such as:
  • Data retention policies
  • Expiration dates
  • Data visualization tools
  • Routine archiving and data governance
When your dormant data is under control, you can better understand your end users’ habits and demographics, reduce your production storage footprint and overhead, and save resources like time and money. Most importantly, however, you can protect your data by addressing security risks before you give them a chance to take root.
Browse through DataGravity use cases to check out other ways data-aware storage management can improve your business.

Jason Atchley : Strategy : 4 Things to Consider When Developing a New Innovation Strategy

Jason Atchley : Strategy : 4 Things to Consider When Developing a New Innovation Strategy

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Know what to consider prior to crafting an innovation strategy.
June 22, 2015
Attempting to adopt a new strategy can harm an operation if the right strategy isn’t applied. The Harvard Business Review noted businesses that employ innovation initiatives tend to not perform or transition very well. However, with a proper innovation strategy, a sales team can set and reach objectives.
“Leading the way and trying something new is how businesses successfully innovate.”
Identify goals 
Every sales operation has different goals. Whether management wants to see a higher volume of revenue per sale, an increase in the number of sales leads or create a more suitable sales compensation plan, figuring out these goals will help a business engineer the proper innovation strategy to meet its objectives.
Create a unique innovation strategy 
HBR emphasized not every operation has the same needs. Adopting an innovation strategy used by another organization won’t necessarily drive the desired results. While management professionals can learn a great deal from other organizations’ innovation strategies, attempting to utilize the same one may not be as successful for one company as it is for another.
According to Harvard Division of Continuing Education, leading the way and trying something new is how businesses successfully develop and grow. This is the crux of what an innovation strategy entails, and thinking in a new perspective can help operations reach pre-established objectives.
In addition, it is important to consider whether a new innovation strategy will easily fit with an existing business model or if an operation will need to also adjust its model to accommodate a new strategy.
Consider customers 
Whether an operation understands its customers determines success. Requesting input or simply becoming more familiar with what individuals want out of an operation can help drive sales productivity. Becoming more attuned to the issues and demands of a customer base can help an operation develop the best innovation strategy for that unique operation.
Investing the time to evaluate the needs of those who purchase products is paramount.
Make it routine 
By constantly evolving and adapting, businesses can truly excel. The sales landscape is constantly evolving. Customers’ needs and employees’ motivators can completely change quickly. Continuing to evaluate and tailor a business strategy to those alterations can help improve the chances of an operation reaching its goals and objectives.
By constantly evaluating and looking to innovate and change strategies, businesses can bolster their performance. For example, if a sales team has not been performing as it should, management will likely need to consider both the customer needs as well as the needs of the sales team. If the customer wants a more personalized experience, developing a plan to incentivize salespeople to spend more time with each customer may help improve performance.
Sales incentive compensation can be used to strengthen an operation and increase sales productivity. Identifying exactly how to properly motivate a sales team is key. Management should also be innovative when it comes to compensating sales professionals.
Innovation drives continual growth and success. By considering these four components, an operation can develop its own unique innovation strategy.

Jason Atchley : Data : The Biggest Data Management Challenge for an IT Director

Jason Atchley : Data : The Biggest Data Management Challenge for an IT Director

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The Biggest Data Management Challenge for an IT Director

shutterstock_111695138With great power comes great responsibility, especially when that power is derived from data. Data is a double-edged sword: On one hand, it allows you to preserve potentially valuable information for future use; keep track of past documents, employee and customer interactions; and protect information about the history, development, and organization of your company. On the other hand, data growth rates today can make its maintenance difficult and risky, especially when your employees adopt an “everything is important” attitude toward saving file versions and hoarding data.
The data hoarding mentality refers to the belief that you should never purge your data on the off chance that you’ll need something in the future. Such a mindset produces a well of data that is rarely assessed for relevance or security, resulting in a confusing morass of data with questionable value and high potential risk. When you can’t tell what’s lurking in your dark data, you open yourself up to a slew of security and compliance threats that have the ability to cripple your company’s productivity. As addressed in our latest webinar, “3 Greatest Challenges for Data Management: IT Director’s Perspective,” a compulsive storing mindset can throw obstacles in your company’s path to success that will cause you to redirect and pivot your storage strategies. A webinar I recently hosted with Mark Lamson, director of IT at Westerly Public Schools, and David Stevens, technical marketing manager at DataGravity, tackled this topic, covering how to:
  • Enhance data complexity and security;
  • Increase visibility and understanding of your data sets; and
  • Rein in your data growth and storage utilization.
With 78 percent of data breaches occurring from within an organization, as reported by the Ponemon Institute, it’s becoming abundantly clear that compliance does not always equal security, and that security doesn’t always equal compliance. However, when you better understand how to store and protect data in a way that benefits your company, you can immediately decrease any threats lurking in your dark data.
To find out more on how to overcome the biggest challenges in data management, watch our webinar, “3 Greatest Challenges for Data Management: IT Director’s Perspective.”

Jason Atchley : Analytics : Why Performance Analytics Could Help Improve Employee Retention

Jason Atchley : Analytics : Why Performance Analytics Could Help Improve Employee Retention

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March 30, 2015
With the problem of employee retention growing, companies are more likely to rely on performance analytics to better prepare themselves if workers decide to leave their employers, The Wall Street Journal reported. High employee turnover could cost employers thousands, reducing profits and resources to use for existing employees. While there are various reasons why workers would want to leave a company, it’s up to employers to determine the cause and react quickly.
Big companies like Wal-Mart are using employee management analytics to determine whether employees are deciding to move on to another employer, according to the Journal. Not only do employers get a better idea of which employees are considering leaving, but they can also identify the source of lower employee retention.
According to LinkedIn, it can cost a company 30 percent to 50 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace an entry-level worker. This percentage is substantially higher for mid-level and high-level employees or workers with special skills. With the high cost of employee turnover, employees should track metrics that could indicate when an employee is close to heading out the door.
Data collection to improve retention
The types of data employers can collect include how long workers have been with the company, performance statistics and responses to surveys and personality tests.
Companies that use sales effectiveness metrics and other key performance indicators can gain insight into whether employees are engaged with their jobs and whether there are underlying causes to a drop in productivity. When firms suspect that employees are losing interest in their jobs, they could confirm this through worsening key performance indicators, such as lower sales and when employees are less likely to meet their quotas. Without quantitative data like revenue per sale and other measures, employers are less likely to pick up on subtle signals that employees are ready to leave.
If employers are able to detect employees who are more likely to leave, they can ready themselves to find a replacement to reduce any productivity losses that happen during the recruiting and training process for new employees.
“If we can tell three months in advance [that a position is going to be open], we can start hiring and training people,” said Elpida Ormanidou, vice president of global people analytics at Wal-Mart, according to the Journal. “You don’t want the jobs vacant for that long a time.”

Jason Atchley : Data Intelligence : From Five 9s to Five Ws: Why Data Intelligence is the New System Availability

Jason Atchley : Data Intelligence : From Five 9s to Five Ws: Why Data Intelligence is the New System Availability

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From five 9s to five Ws: Why data intelligence is the new system availability

Are you still boasting about five-nines availability?
Don’t get me wrong. Achieving five nines, or 99.999 percent availability in a given system, is an incredible achievement for any IT vendor or team. Five nines works out to five minutes and 15 seconds of downtime per year, and when the concept hit the industry and eventually became the standard for service availability, it added immeasurable productivity benefits and backup reassurance to global organizations. However, IT has been building toward a breaking point in recent years, with data security becoming a top concern for technology pros and C-suite executives alike. It’s no longer enough to measure the availability of your data if you don’t know exactly what’s in it.
As you start to have new conversations and priorities surrounding five nines, you can pivot your business strategies and adapt to the shifting security climate by considering something else – the five W’s of your data. When you can answer “who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “why” about your company’s information, you can defend its security and enhance its value. For example, consider the situations outlined below.
  • Who has access to the files on your server? Most exposures and vulnerabilities that result in compromised or stolen data begin within your network, not outside your perimeter. It’s up to you to audit file activity and track user behavior in order to keep your information safe.
  • What predictions can you make based on data activity? Don’t discount the value of the patterns and insights that may come to light when you’re data-aware. For example, user analysis can help your team’s best collaborators, increasing productivity and working toward the same goals your five nines stamp once did. Also, by asking “What,” your organization can move closer to protecting your data. This can help you determine what your people intend to do with those files containing intellectual property (IP) or personally identifiable information (PII) that they have access to.
  • Where is proprietary information, financial data and personally identifiable information (PII) being stored? In our conversations with prospects and partners, we often hear stories about how before they became data-aware, organizations didn’t realize an employee had mistakenly saved sensitive information to the public domain, where it was made available to third-party attackers without the company’s knowledge. Everyone does it. You grab a file from a secure location, work on the spreadsheet for a few hours, close your laptop and take it home. Before long, the file has found its way into an unsecure area and several people could access it. Who knows where it goes from there (although DataGravity does). It’s a harmless act, but it happens all of the time.
  • When was the last time your team accessed each of your files? When most companies max out their storage space, they don’t question the reasons and simply purchase more. However, when your storage is smart enough to let you know how much of that used space contains copies of files and unnecessary user downloads, you can likely forgo the added costs and complexities of new storage add-ons. I am amazed at how many IT professionals walk up to us at events and say that they would spend the budget of an entire storage purchase to know what data is obsolete, who owns it and make a decision on what to do with it to clean up their systems and reduce overhead costs.
  • Why does your data matter? Every organization is storing sensitive data that can jeopardize the security of confidential agreements, IP, personal information and your bottom line. If it’s possible for your data to understand and protect its contents, why not let your storage solution automatically save and secure your data? It is possible thanks to data-aware storage.
I’m not in any way saying that we should stop thinking about data integrity in terms of component redundancy and system availability metrics. I’m advocating an expanded view of data systems to include a security integrity check that enables us to determine in near real-time, what happened to a piece of information and who we need to talk to in order to figure out the purpose.  It shouldn’t take a day to scan data to reproduce an event: it should take a minute. We’re expanding the role and the value of the administrator by giving them tools that address the five W’s, all at the point of storage and all included. It’s pretty simple and pretty smart.

Jason Atchley : Strategy : 3 Ways to Improve Strategy Communication

Jason Atchley : Strategy : 3 Ways to Improve Strategy Communication

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June 22, 2015
Communicating the strategy with salespeople improves their ability to perform and reach goals. The Harvard Business Review noted that without fully understanding the sales plan, employees may not be able to meet benchmarks.
By using these three easy techniques to communicate a sales strategy with employees, a business can effectively implement its established sales technique.
“After hiring strong candidates, properly preparing them is crucial for successful strategy communication. “
1. Train the sales team 
After hiring strong candidates, properly preparing them for the sales process is crucial for successful strategy communication. HBR also notedkeeping the message simple yet deep is crucial, especially when employees are first learning the ropes. Each operation has a core reason why it conducts business and the sales strategy is often a reflection of this. Correlating these two and emphasizing the deeper meaning and intention behind a strategy can help ensure young employees comprehend.
2. Allow regular conversation and communication
If a salesperson has a question regarding the strategy, it should always be simple to reach out and find answers. Whether someone is available through email, chat, over the phone or in person, giving a resource to all employees is important.
3. Continue to educate and reinforce 
Employees should not cease learning about the implemented strategy after training. Continual dialog and repeating the connection between the business’s purpose and strategy can help ensure a strategy is fully communicated to all salespeople successfully.

Jason Atchley : Data Management : Embarrassing Moments When Everyone Wishes They Were Data-Aware

Jason Atchley : Data Management : Embarrassing Moments When Everyone Wishes They Were Data-Aware

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Embarrassing Moments: When Everyone Wishes They Were Data-Aware

Knowing what data you have stored can help you avoid a lot of embarrassing moments, gaffes and worse – catastrophic mistakes or oversights. After all, it’s your data that you’re storing: you should know what you have.
Embarrased by being unaware
As a storage admin or IT Pro if you know the lay of the land — i.e. what potential obstacles are in the way and the easiest path to accomplish the tasks set before you — whether that’s searching your data, backing up your files, protecting your sensitive information or more efficiently managing your storage, you’ll be much less likely to stumble or take a misstep. Today, organizations are beginning to appreciate that data-aware storage – a new way of managing, protecting, governing and discovering their data at the point of storage – is a reality. By harnessing this understanding of the data that resides in their storage, organizations can more effectively manage the daily challenges and occasional crises that arise.
DataGravity is seeing this in our day-to-day dealings with valued customers as they’re using the DataGravity Discovery Series to more efficiently store, utilize and oversee their data. That led us to wonder how others would’ve benefited from being more data-aware.
One prime example of being embarrassed by not being data aware comes to mind.  If only Miss Teen South Carolina had been a little more data aware, her answer to this seemingly simple question never would’ve garnered more than 60 million views on YouTube.

Jason Atchley : Sales : Creating a Sales Compensation Plan

Jason Atchley : Sales : Creating a Sales Compensation Plan

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June 15, 2015
Effective compensation can motivate salespeople substantially. Everything from bonuses to noncash rewards can boost productivity across the sales team.
Finding a balance between raises in commission as well as base pay can help motivate employees to successfully turn leads into customers and upsell products and services to existing clients, according to Inc. However, operating on a commission-only system may be another great way to encourage employees to outperform quotas.
Before developing and implementing a sales compensation plan, know what components to include.
“A balance between commission as well as base pay can help motivate employees.”
Know what kinds of compensation drives sales productivity
Recognizing and appreciating the work of salespeople helps keep the best employees around.
“It’s probably one of the fundamental keys for success for a business, provided they have a sales force – which would apply to vast majority of businesses,” said Jim Stoeckmann, senior practice leader for sales compensation at WorldatWork, according to Inc. “Going to market is really a fundamental part of planning your business. The compensation plan is how you operationalize the sales force, get them aligned with the business goals, and get them motivated and driven to implement your go-to-market strategy.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, a sales compensation plan is one of the most influential tools a business can use. Using different methods may be more impactful among certain employees.
After analyzing the performance of employees who were awarded based on their customer retention rate, Mark Roberge, a contributing author to HBR, indicated the rate of customer turnover decreased 70 percent within six months. Offering a monetary incentive relative to the performance of salespeople helped drive customer retention.
Consider asking for feedback from employees to develop a suitable compensation plan.
“If customer retention is historically an issue, cutting down on turnover is a valuable goal.”
Creating a sales compensation plan
The four primary elements to consider when writing out a successful sales compensation plan include a strategy, ability to measure performance, formula for payout and governance.
The sales strategy should indicate what the business wants to achieve. Similar to the example documented by HBR, if customer retention is historically an issue, cutting down on consumer turnover is a valuable goal. Entrepreneurship.org noted additional goals a company may be interested in meeting include developing a new customer base and growing revenue.
Providing a way to measure performance and setting benchmarks to track progress in meeting business objectives is another essential part to a sales compensation plan. When Roberge worked to decrease the turnover rate, he notified each person what his or her churn rate was and its relation to the sales team’s average. Letting members of the team know what is above and below average provides critical feedback and illustrates a potential goal.
When setting goals for salespeople, a business must ensure the objectives will be true reflections of solid performance.
“Meeting quarterly sales quotas can be one measure of performance,” noted Scott Shimamoto, the principle in charge of incentive compensation for ZS Associates. “But what if those quotas are met by selling products at a deep discount?”
Measuring productivity accurately will drive the most impactful sales activity and increase revenue. This is a substantial factor to consider when creating a sales compensation plan.
A business should decide what counts as a measure of performance. This decision should reflect wich goals are most important, and all employees should know what metrics are tracked to determine compensation.
A payout formula provides incentives for employees. In Roberge’s circumstance, he stack-ranked the sales team and categorized them by performance. The top-performing quartile was awarded $4 for every $1 of revenue gathered due to a returning customer. Each group that performed at a lower level earned less. Incentive compensation management software can help managers easily track this data and even motivate salespeople by providing insight to their performance.
Additionally, HBR noted natural social pressure is implemented when employees are grouped by performance. Recognizing the best salespeople places additional pressure on the performance of other employees and can encourage increased sales productivity across the team.
When developing a compensation plan, a business must decide how questions and conflicts regarding compensation will be addressed.
“There are going to be things that come up during the course of the year that are not covered or are a matter of interpretation,” noted Stoeckmann, according to Inc. “You need to spell out the way those are going to be resolved. It may be a committee or a chain of command.”.
Getting the plan going
After creating a strong sales compensation plan, you should wait to initiate the start of this at an ideal moment. The first quarter of the new year is a good time to start fresh and encourage employees to create goals.
Before implementation, a business should also ensure they have the proper team assembled to meet the needs of a new sales compensation plan.
“You want to have the sales leadership set the perimeters up front,” noted Stoeckmann.

Jason Atchley : Data Management : To Understand What Makes Data-Aware Technology So Cool, Ask Gartner

Jason Atchley : Data Management : To Understand What Makes Data-Aware Technology So Cool, Ask Gartner

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To Understand What Makes Data-Aware Technology So Cool, Ask Gartner

How cool is DataGravity? According to Gartner Cool Vendors research, very. This report examining the landscape of storage options – including our own data-aware technology – provides valuable insights into how companies are facing the challenge of not only storing, but also analyzing and securing their data. The recent list names DataGravity as a force in the industry: “DataGravity provides a primary storage platform that accentuates data awareness with built-in data protection, search and visualization capabilities.”
Why did Gartner choose us as one of the “cool kids?” According to the report:
  •  “The Discovery Series systems track and audit all interactions, identify sensitive data, and retain this information in a metadata repository.” End users sometimes save sensitive data to the wrong place or even use data for malicious purposes. User access auditing is just one of our features that is more than cool – it’s essential for data-driven businesses.
  • “A clean UI provides a simple view to search and filter through data […] data can be easily searched for sensitive information, including personally identifiable information (PII) stored in a full content index as part of an overall information governance and compliance strategy.”Understanding your stored data allows you to decrease liability, as well as surface business insights, and visualization makes those actions easier for end users.
  • “The secondary replicated copy also acts as a backup for data protection utilizing DiscoveryPoints that are similar to a snapshot while also allowing granular recovery.”Misplaced files and accidental deletions plague company interactions. Having a stored copy that is simple to retrieve saves both time and resources.
Gartner’s report says, “Storage administrators, storage and IT architects, IT management, chief data officers, and information and governance leaders who seek a primary storage platform that accentuates data awareness with built-in data governance, search and visualization capabilities should consider DataGravity.”
See what else Gartner has to say about the DataGravity “cool” factor in the white paper, “Transform Your Data from a Potential Liability to a Business Asset with Data-Aware Storage.”

Jason Atchley : Data : Protecting Against Data Loss Has Gotten Even Harder

Jason Atchley : Data : Protecting Against Data Loss Has Gotten Even Harder

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Protecting Against Data Loss Has Gotten Even Harder

Currently IT and storage pros spend a lot of time sweating data loss.  They know that losing their company’s information would have a substantial impact on their business, not to mention in some cases, on their own career prospects. In fact, many folks have told me it is a resume generating event in a lot of cases.
It takes more than locks to protect your dataThese folks take heroic measures to assure they don’t suffer a data loss. One way they do so is by creating an environment where redundancy is everywhere. This relentless protection from data loss is why companies like Commvault and Veeam exist.  Heck not losing data is so important that people have been putting up with tape as backup for years as a way to make sure there’s never a total loss. This paranoia is exactly the right behavior. It was right in 1969 and is still right in 2015 and beyond.  However, for today and in the future, even this type of behavior is not enough.
The definition of loss hasn’t changed in all this time, yet the threats against the data have grown exponentially.  In the storage world, the definition of loss is in physical terms. Is the data where you left it or is it gone, can you read it?  This definition is absolutely correct but only tells a fraction of the story.  Data can now be kidnapped and held for ransom.  It can also be virtually stolen, which is sort of like identity theft.
In a data kidnapping case for example, a user may click on something that seems important and as fast as an IT Admin can say “No!” the damage is done.  The data can be crypto locked and pretty soon senior leaders of the company are learning to buy bitcoins to get the data back.  

Is this crypto lock example truly data loss?  Well it meets the criteria that the data’s not accessible, users are unhappy and the business can’t move forward until access to the data is restored.  An incident like this is similar to data corruption on a grand scale.  What makes it difficult is that some of the data is still good and some the data is locked.  It’s often difficult to tell what’s happened and what can be used.  Is it IT’s fault when an event like this occurs?  Certainly not, but then was it IT’s fault when a RAID set toasted and they spent the next three days restoring from back up, while you are wondering if you should check to see if Walmart is hiring?  When it comes to data availability, integrity, and privacy the buck starts and stops with IT.
In the case of virtual data theft, the ramifications are unknown at least to start.  It usually happens like this.  Someone breaches your IT infrastructure either illegally or someone working for the company gets curious.  They start wandering around in your network until they gain access a server they can start to sift through data on.  Once they have found the data they want, they either start downloading information to sort through it later to figure out what’s in it, or they are really bold and look for things they can sell or ransom on the live site.  With this type of breach it is difficult to know it’s happening and harder still to detect what they found and what the exposure is.  Another common practice, unfortunately, is people are confused about who owns the data within a company.  When they leave or if they’re asked by a friend, many folks simply download information for future use.  This could be critical IP, such as source code, trade secrets or customer lists.  This is also theft that can negatively impact your business.
All of these new types of data loss need to be understood and protected against.  If you ignore them, you put your company at risk and your job in jeopardy.
So I know what you are thinking, it seems like we have been trying to make protecting data against physical loss simple for a long time now.  This has been cumbersome, problematic, time consuming and frankly, for the most part, what you hate most about your job.  How can anyone expect you to protect against virtual threats too?  Well virtual threats are more likely to happen, and can be just as damaging to your company.  Many high profile executives have lost their jobs over virtual data theft.  It is a priority for them to stop this practice.  Can this happen to your company?  There are as many small and mid-sized companies where data has been stolen as there are Fortune-500 companies, they just don’t garner the headlines.  In fact, not all cases of virtual data theft are even reported at all, so the real numbers are significantly larger then you’d suspect.  One just needs to look at the report published by the Identity Theft Center to see a company that looks similar to yours.
So what is an IT organization to do?  First, IT must protect the data entrusted to it.  Second, IT must do this with no additional budget or staff.  Those two requirements sure make it seem like an impossible mission, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just as modern storage has automated most aspects of storage management, such as performance optimizations, capacity management and storage provisioning, a new generation of storage is emerging – data-aware storage.
Data-aware storage automates the process of protecting your storage from both physical and virtual data loss. It knows when the change rate of your data is higher than normal and proactively takes aDiscoveryPoint (intelligent protection point, think of a snapshot on steroids) before all the data is locked down.  It also helps you keep track of your information, helps determine if there is sensitive information in your unstructured data, also tells you who is accessing the data and when they are doing so.  It can alert you when site defined sensitive data is saved to your storage so you are in a position to protect it.  This is all done at the point-of-storage, without any additional complexity or cost to your IT infrastructure.
It’s time you started to be proactive about protecting your data from all the threats to your company from both physical and virtual data loss. What is your company doing to defend against all types of data loss?