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What is Information Lifecycle Management? ILM Explained

by Chris Brook on Thursday May 25, 2023

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Data is the cornerstone of the digital economy, but its constant generation creates challenges for organizations. One such challenge is storing and managing the data securely throughout its lifecycle–namely–creation, storage, processing, archival, and disposition.

Here we’ll explain how Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) provides the requisite data governance, security, and compliance for this to happen.

What Is Information Lifecycle Management?

Data in the digital age needs shepherding and managing from inception until its final disposition. Information Lifecycle Management is the process of overseeing data throughout its lifecycle, optimizing its storage systems, and lowering associated costs.

Information Lifecycle Management deals with the spectrum of challenges associated with storing data, like security, compliance, and regulatory issues.

Information Lifecycle Management also includes the policies and technologies required to manage data effectively.

The Characteristics of Information Lifecycle Management

Information Lifecycle Management is often characterized by the phases through which information passes throughout the organization. ILM is also data-centric, implemented through a policy-based approach that provides a consistent, centralized strategy for managing data.

Here is a more in-depth look at ILM’s defining attributes:

  • Centrally Managed: For Information Lifecycle Management to work effectively,  businesses must adopt a strategy of placing their information assets collectively for enhanced management. This reduces duplication and redundancy while augmenting storage usage.
  • Heterogenous: Information Lifecycle Management typically handles a wide range of data, including structured and unstructured data. As a result, it should be nimble enough to accommodate different storage platforms, tools, and operating systems.
  • Optimized Approach: Because data has different storage requirements, Information Lifecycle Management facilitates data classification, along with assigning resources based on the business value of the data.
  • Policy-based: Information Lifecycle Management can’t be implemented in an ad hoc manner. An organization’s policies must be first and foremost aligned with its business goals, then applications, processes, and resources.
  • Business-focused: An organization’s data is integral to its business. So, it should come as no surprise that Information Lifecycle Management should be integrated in such a way to enhance key organizational processes, strategies, and applications in meeting the demand for information. 
     

The Phases of Information Lifecycle Management

Because ILM deals with the entire data lifecycle, its distinct phases must be orchestrated with technology, strategy, and process. More specifically, underlying ILM are the general data lifecycle management phases of creation, storage, use, sharing, archiving, and destruction.

Data creation and collection

 Data might as well be equivalent to oxygen for organizations operating in an online-first world, with data’s centrality to creating digital products and competitive advantage.

When organizations begin their operations, they typically start creating and generating data immediately. For enterprises, this typically means doing so on a large scale. Therefore, the data creation and collection from disparate sources are the first aspect of ILM and need to be meticulously planned.

Data classification 

Data classification organizes data according to its purpose and importance. It should precede data storage to enable organizations to optimize retrieval and storage costs.

Data processing and usage 

This encompasses processing activities that transform data into information, along with support for viewing, modification, and saving document activities. It also includes how the data will be shared and the digital rights protection that needs to accompany it.

Data archiving 

Data becomes voluminous over time, so some of it requires removal or archival from active production environments. This allows the transaction queries frequently executed on the latest batch of data to proceed with speed.  

Data destruction and disposition

An organization might want to retain or destroy some information after it becomes obsolete or reaches the end of its lifecycle. Some compliance regulations mandate having a retention schedule for certain categories of data.

Conversely, failing to dispose of sensitive information promptly may also incur compliance penalties. So, retention and disposition are added storage and processing costs that Information Lifecycle Management imposes on businesses.

The Benefits of Information Lifecycle Management

Information Lifecycle Management provides organizations with lots of advantages by aligning various IT processes, such as the following:

  • Cost savings: Information Lifecycle Management reduces infrastructure and storage costs in the following ways.
    • Findability: Improving findability reduces productivity wastage by reducing the time required to search for relevant information, such as metadata and file copies.
    • eDiscovery: Electronic discovery is important in legal settings or enforcement Examples include legal hold orders in litigation or government investigations that directly impact discovery costs. eDiscovery mechanisms increase worker or custodian productivity by decreasing the time taken to find information or maintain legal requirements.
    • Repurposing and reusing information: Information Lifecycle Management reduces wasted effort with unwarranted “reinventing the wheel” mechanisms due to its ability to minimize document recreation and redundancy.
    • Data storage: Information Lifecycle Management supports the systematic disposition and purging of data that has reached its end of life.
    • Application decommissioning: Not only does ILM seek new ways to improve the management of record archiving, but it also facilitates the effective maintenance of applications.

      This is done by decommissioning applications when their useful life expires, reducing unnecessary maintenance costs.
       

  • Reduced risks: Information Lifecycle Management helps data loss prevention by reducing the possibility of data leakage by bolstering document security. It does this by the effective disposition and destruction of outdated sensitive data.

    Also, Information Lifecycle Management ensures data is properly managed to comply with existing regulations. As a result, it reduces the risk of fines that could result from non-compliance.

  • Improved service performance: Information Lifecycle Management consolidates and simplifies IT resources and associated systems, boosting enterprise application performance.
  • Creating tangible business value: The data businesses use is hardly always current. ILM makes tangible the awareness that information inevitably changes over time, compelling organizations to plan systematically for its renewal. This spurs investment in enterprise IT management that increases business capabilities.
  • Some of these actions include the implementation of data storage and migration policies, and providing a tiered data classification strategy that appropriately reflects its business value,
  • Master data management: Information Lifecycle Management is effectively a means of data lifecycle management. It uses management policies to align data with business requirements and regulatory compliance.
  • Minimizing compliance risks: Information Lifecycle Management improves a lot of components that reduce compliance risks for organizations, such as transparency, trustworthiness, timeliness, and relevance. Moreover, the robust data governance ILM provides helps boosts data loss prevention and data management. This, in turn, yields better regulatory compliance outcomes. 
     

How Fortra Can Help with Information Lifecycle Management

Fortra has the tools and experience to manage information from creation to disposition that ILM demands consistently. Fortra’s Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration, in particular, takes a Zero Trust approach to file security, providing encryption and access controls that follow your data wherever it goes, inside or outside of your corporate environment.

From Fortra’s data loss prevention to data classification, along with Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration, we provide varied options and improved agility to achieve your ILM objectives.

Watch this short video to learn more about how Fortra’s Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration can track, protect, and secure your information.

Tags:  Secure Collaboration

Chris Brook

Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Digital Guardian’s Data Insider blog. He is a cybersecurity writer with nearly 15 years of experience reporting and writing about information security, attending infosec conferences like Black Hat and RSA, and interviewing hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian–acquired by Fortra in 2021–he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site that was a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.

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