Total Cost of Ownership. This has been a phrase thrown around for a couple of decades. What Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) boils down to is pretty simple: it is the total of how much software costs to buy and use. The purchase cost is very tangible. However, the use cost is a whole different animal and is the wildcard in the process. You know how much you spent to buy software, because that is what I call a hard cost. Usage, well now you’re talking soft costs, which is much harder to measure. Soft costs include personnel and whenever people’s time is involved, TCO gets complicated.

During this article, I will be talking about TCO but not regarding a specific software. I want to talk about TCO and your data. So bear with me as I lay a quick foundation.

I think we all agree that often you have to spend money, to save money. I realize this sounds counter-intuitive, but if you can purchase something to help you save money, it is probably a good investment. But within reason. That brings to mind an amusing anecdote regarding this. I have a friend who is always looking for sales on everything. He tells me he is saving by spending. In fact, I once joked with him about a sale he saw for dog food. He showed me the sale price versus the regular price and he calculated how much he could save. It was a great deal, but there was one technicality…he doesn’t own a dog.

For the sake of argument, let’s talk about an accounting firm named CompanyA. In order to perform their business they don’t need software. Now mind you, it would take them a lot longer to achieve the same tasks than their rival, CompanyB could do with software, but it could be done. If you look at the TCO for CompanyA, it would be zero. On the surface, it looks like they are saving money compared to CompanyB. However, CompanyB is performing their work exponentially faster than CompanyA, thus though CompanyB spent money on software, as well as personnel costs to operate it, more is going to the bottom line.

So why am I giving you a quick lesson in Economics 101? Because believe it or not, there are a lot of companies that are performing repetitive manual tasks to do their job. Over the years, I have performed hundreds of demos for our software. Honestly, we are not doing anything magical, nor are we doing anything that couldn’t be done manually. What we are doing is automating the processing, which could save hundreds of man hours per year, which results in more profit for your company. This especially true for companies performing eDiscovery. I can’t tell you how many companies have told me they perform manual searching on their data. For instance, if there are 100 custodians involved in a case, the administrators have told me they are tasked with looking through each mailbox manually. So where are the costs in that? The company didn’t have to buy any software, thus there are no operational costs directly attributed to it, so they must be saving money, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because an employee is already getting paid, doesn’t mean the 100s of hours they might spend performing manual tasks are not costing the company financially. The first question I would ask is, “What would you be doing if you weren’t encumbered by this task?” and the typical answer is “My real responsibilities.”. Someone has to be doing them and then everything starts backing up and performance decreases.

OK, I’ll assume you agree with my stance on software and its usefulness.

So let’s now talk about Altitude IG. Sherpa created Altitude IG for a many reasons. I will talk about three and during each, will do my best to provide an Altitude TCO benefit.

1. Inventory of data

Altitude can help you understand what data you have in you environment. One of my favorites phrases is “You don’t know what you don’t know.”. If you have ever been the parent of a teenager, you will fully understand that though they think they know everything, there is a flaw in their thinking. They haven’t been exposed to enough, to know as much as they think they do. To apply this to business, I’m guessing if your users are allowed to store data on either network drives or their local hard drives, that you really have no idea (nor does anyone else) on what they have saved. The typical reaction to this is to bury your head in the sand. Though I do encourage delusion from time to time, this probably isn’t the best reaction to this problem. A better reaction would be to decide to inventory all storage areas and start understanding what is saved where and why. Is this a large job? Absolutely. Is this something you would enjoy? Probably not. Is this something that is good for the company? You bet it is. But not knowing what data is stored where isn’t that big of an issue, is it? Don’t kid yourself, this is a large problem and you’re not the only one that has it.

I’m sure the initial reaction by security, legal, HR, etc. when an inventory of data is presented, is shock. They will be shocked at how old some of the data is. They will be shocked by the amount of data there is. But the biggest shock will be the content of the data. Legal and HR will be questioning why this data was saved. Security will be stunned by finding passwords in text files. The storage folks will now understand why they had to keep buying additional storage. There will be many emotions to the findings and not too many of them will be positive.

2. eDiscovery of data

Altitude can be used to perform keyword searching across your disparate data. Altitude can search Exchange, Office365, archives, PST files, network drives, local drives, etc. You provide the keywords and configure what data sources (type of data) should be searched and Altitude will do the rest. You will be returned a list of findings, which can then be reviewed. Though Altitude will perform all of the searching of the data in all specified locations, manual review of the results that were generated will need to be done. Once again, is this an enjoyable task? Not for me, I’m sure I don’t have to explain how litigation costs could explode based upon data that was found. And even if by some miracle there was no Legal/HR-related data issues and your argument is storage is cheap. I agree. The purchase of storage is a fraction of what it used to be. But that’s not where the costs end. There’s backups, storage for the backups, etc.

3. Policy enforcement

Altitude can enforce retention policies on your data. This can be done having the same policies on all data, or you can enforce different policies, depending on the data type (e.g. email vs. files). These policies can run in perpetuity, so that you are on a schedule for your data retention. Pulling the trigger on this can be daunting, which is why we advise performing a simulation of the deletion first. Basically, what would happen is Altitude would analyze your data and generate a report on what data would be deleted and the volume for each of your data sources. You could then use these reports to possibly adjust/refine your policies.

In summary, I hope this left you thinking about your data and how Altitude can help with the TCO of your data.