Preventing the Digital Landfill with Smarter Business Practices Using Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

Jan 09, 2015

The television network A&E had a long-running series called Hoarders. Admittedly, I like most watch with morbid curiosity to see what items a person would keep in their houses, or carry with them in pocketbooks and wallets. In fact, hoarding is not a laughing matter; the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA considers hoarding to be an indicator of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Hoarding is still a great metaphor what is occurring in many organizations with digital assets and the digital landfills that result.

A digital landfill occurs when a company stores so much content that records are hard to locate and access, often to a point the records might as well be lost. Toby Bell, the Marketing and Offering Strategy Lead of IBM Enterprise Content Management (ECM), described the mismanagement of content as “information anarchy.” In a recent eBroadcast that I moderated, Generation Now – Pervasive Content Collaboration: Leveraging Cloud with ECM, Frost & Sullivan learned:

• In a typical enterprise, 80% of what is stored is content.

• In a study conducted by IBM, 68% of that content is legacy content. Legacy content should be archived or purged (if allowable) as this content is not instrumental to everyday operations.

• According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), fully 38% of all organizations have not optimized their internal search tools. Consequently, inability to easily locate obsolete content is counter to the effort to rein in the digital landfill. Conversely, antiquated search engines also contribute to ineffective searches for content of value.

Content, to be clear, is any file that is being stored by an organization. Using the broader sense of content, without context, files become indistinguishable and difficult to manage with an eye toward cost efficiency and data handling. Without proper consideration, the personal files of an individual worker are treated the same as the files of the Chief Financial Officer. Calamity ensues when the file Awesome Mix Tape #6 receive equal treatment as the file titled 1Q 2015 Financial Statements: For the CEO: Highly Sensitive.

Preventing a Landfill

In looking to prevent a “digital landfill,” the following are the characteristics one should look for from their ECM:

1. Multi-Cloud Environments. The best ECM platforms can be adapted for private-clouds, public clouds, or a hybrid-cloud environment that may also include on-premises storage.

2. Administrative Auditing. The ECM should include an auditing engine that records every event related to the file (who created the file, who has  accessed, when a file was accessed, etc.). Additionally, a central administrator should be able to change access privileges, switch administrators, or create rules based upon the end user and the location of the file. Auditing can be used to prove complaint practices.

3. Strong Synch and Share Functions. In the last two years, the enterprise file synch and share technology has become viable and desired. At the time of file creating, the user can send credentials to colleagues for editing or read-only privileges. Credentials can be condition-based to change privileges based on time-sensitivity. The majority of ECM platforms will archive every version of a file presenting only the most recent revision.

4. Analytic in the Platform. A school of thought exists that information can be gleaned from how files are accessed. Characteristics about file access (who accessed, how long the interaction, when accessed) can be valuable in public-facing settings.

5. Platform Integration. Using Open API, ECM platforms can be integrated with data-loss prevention measures or risk-management can be applied to file access to mitigate threats to the most sensitive files.

Each feature mentioned here is important, however, when various aspects of ECM are combined, the value of the platform moves up exponentially. For instance, if a data loss prevention program triggers an alarm about a suspicious activity within a file, an investigation can be launched about the user or the type of access to the file — these factors can be used to determine if there is a greater breach onto the network.

Final Thought

Content management is not simply a burden to be bared; efficient ECM can be a smart way to improve a current business and avoid digital landfills. Additionally, ECM is important in managing content storage costs and supporting an enterprise’s fiduciary obligation to protect and maintain records. When companies work with employees or contractors, personal information and intellectual property must be accessible, but must also be treated with confidentiality.

Christopher Kissel


Chris Kissel offers eleven years of research and sales experience in the network security, cellular infrastructure, wireless, telecomm, PCs, semiconductor, and high-definition consumer device sectors. His current field of studies are in information and network security at Frost & Sullivan. More specifically, Mr. Kissel has expertise in knowledge-based network security technologies.: vulnerability management, SIEM, network forensics, network access control (NAC), and Internet of Things.

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