Storage, e-discovery and compliance are merging, leading to a new role - the data administrator. By Sonia R. Lelii Dice News Staff | May 2008
As technology matures, the storage administrator's job may give way to an emerging role: the data administrator. Ten years ago, the bulk of physical storage was separated from the server and stored into disk arrays, transported via its own specialized fiber channel network. The storage administrator's job was to manage the flow of this data into a centralized, complex environment that often was built on a heterogeneous infrastructure. His role was to safeguard the data, while making it continuously available. Now, some observers believe the worlds of storage, e-discovery and compliance are on a merging path. The result will be a data administrator role that simultaneously works with a company's IT, legal and records-management teams. "I believe the job of a storage administrator is going away in the next five years, because a lot of what is being done manually will be automated," says Mark Diamond, president and chief executive of Contoural data and storage services in Mountain View, Calif. "New legal and business requirements are forcing companies to understand what documents they have, where they have them, and how to find the digital data quickly." Such a job requires someone who understands legal discovery requirements. Electronic discovery focuses on locating, securing and searching data that can be used as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case. During a lawsuit, all types of data can be called in evidence, including text files, images, calendar data, databases, spreadsheets, audio files, animation, Web sites and computer programs. Even deleted data is subject to the discovery procedure. New Rules, New Pressures Putting more pressure on companies are new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As of December 2007 these rules, which govern civil proceedings in U.S. courts, require companies to submit digital documents relevant to a lawsuit within a deadline, usually 120 days of when a complaint was served on the defendant. If the deadline isn't met, a judge can levy fines and penalties. That means companies need to know what they are storing and where it is located. "It is no longer sufficient to manage just statistical and financial data," wrote Aimee Siliato in the February 2007 edition of the Data Administration Newsletter, a Web site that covers data management. "Issues such as dealing with e-mail and other unstructured data and protecting personally identifiable information are among the challenges faced. E-discovery is another, further expanding how data and information must be managed and who needs to use it and have access to it." Wider Expertise Needed As Diamond explains it, data administrators also need to understand storage, records management, data classification and retrieval. He sees work for them in all businesses, including financial services, retail, pharmaceuticals, technology, and health care, to name a few. In general, businesses are seeking individuals who are experts in one or two of the three areas - storage, e-discovery and compliance - and training them as data administrators. "Companies are having a hard time finding people who are experts all three areas," Diamond notes. Robert S. Seiner, Pittsburgh-based publisher of the Data Administration newsletter, believes people who want to become data administrators have to focus on data more than IT systems and development. Seiner, who began his career as a programmer, stumbled into the data administration role while attaining his MBA at the University of Pittsburgh in 1997. "It kind of came and found me," says Seiner. "You have to go looking for this kind of job rather than it coming to you."