Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring Cleaning and IT

Now that spring is almost here, it’s time to do spring cleaning.  What does this mean from an IT standpoint?   Depending on what areas of IT you’re in, this could mean anything from cleaning physical hardware like grungy keyboards and screens, to finding files that no longer have to be kept around for compliancy reasons. 

Cleaning hardware is easy.  There’s a myriad of solutions from dust blowers and vacuums to solutions, so it doesn’t take long to find out what needs to be done for each individual piece of equipment.

Cleaning out data is a little trickier.  When you keep data around for a long time, you have three things to consider:
  • How long to keep it.
  • How to access it if you had to retrieve it.
  • What to do with it afterwards.

In the case of information that you’re often required to keep around for 7 years or more, this can get especially tricky.  Ask yourself if you can open your accounting files you last touched in 2007?  How about opening on your Mac, those Wordperfect documents you wrote on your PC in 2004?

It’s a major problem.  

The solution is usually to stick to well-supported document formats, but sometimes this just isn’t an option.  Word 2013 will open up Word documents going back to 1997 with no problem, and some Works files that are even earlier, but if you’ve changed platforms then this means either shelling out for Windows and running it in a Virtual Machine to get access to old data, or migrating it to a new format.

If you have to migrate, this can get tricky as you may find the direct “Format A to Format B” migration path isn’t available.  Sometimes, you have to take a “Format A to Format B, then Format B to Format C” option through an intermediary software package.

Finally, there’s the issue of what to do with old data.  In the old days, drive space was much more expensive than it is these days, so a lot of data would be archived to new media and removed, or destroyed.  These days, it’s simpler to just put it aside - that way it’s still on hand for reference purposes.  Also, data that is easily accessible is likely to be used more, and thus less susceptible to becoming obsolete as it will more likely be upgraded to remain in a current format.