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Blog Post

August 13, 2018

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Making Information Classification Easier

By John Desborough

Information classification/categorization is the process of organizing information assets with an agreed-on categorization glossary, enabling effective and efficient prioritization for information governance policy spanning quality, security, access, privacy, storage and retention. One of the biggest problem organizations face today is that people are hoarders of information and this, in turn, leads to data sprawl and inefficiencies in information management.

People are information/data hoarders by nature and the advances in technology and storage capability have meant that people no longer have to make a serious effort to eliminate information/transitory records. Many people keep information that they could have deleted due to the transitory nature of the information but, in many cases, they choose to keep the item as they “might need it someday” or to be able to address any performance-related questions/issues that might come up in the future. This often results in many redundant copies of information being stored within the organization's information estate with the vast majority of these items not having the appropriate classification/categorization applied.

A summary of benefits and uses of information classification include, but are not limited to:

  • Labeling: information classification can be used to display or manage the inclusion of visible markings in digital documents or their printed output that indicates a classification to the user.
  • Sensitive Data Inventory: information classification can be used to find documents containing material that may be subject to regulatory compliance or represent security risks.
  • Protection Automation: information classification can be used as the basis for automating the enforcement of information-handling policies and ensure compliance.
  • Access Control: information classification can be used as the basis for the enforcement of an access policy that ensures the documents are viewed only by specific users or groups of users and in a specific context or environment.
  • Flow Control: information classification can be used in context to evaluate whether data should flow from an environment to another and whether (as above) the data should be automatically protected prior to flowing to a specific destination.

File analysis products can be leveraged assist organizations in classifying information. These products analyze, index, search, track and report on file metadata and file content, enabling organizations to take actions on files according to what was identified. File analysis provides detailed metadata and contextual information to enable better information governance and organizational efficiency for unstructured data management.

Recommendations:

  • Use file analysis in conjunction with information management policy and retention best practices as part of a holistic information governance strategy.
  • Choose file analysis tools for information classification with features that match the requirements for specific projects or use cases, instead of a “boil the ocean” solution.
  • Evaluate the data presentation/visualization capability and the level of metadata and content analysis as the top two selection criteria of a file analysis solution.
  • Select the file analysis tool that will scale to handle the environment, but ensure that it does not create burdensome overhead for the live environment.
  • Leverage Gartner’s "Three Rings of Information Governance" (September 2015) approach to review and group information assets.

Help the hoarders! Help your organization. Reduce the size of your information estate and better classify your data. The cost savings and business process efficiencies you generate will offset the costs of file analysis software and create positive business outcomes for your organization.

 

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John Desborough is a Director, Consulting and Technology Solutions at MNP. He is an accomplished business solutions program manager and business transformation architect with 30+ years in the information and technology consulting domain. John has extensive background in information/data management and governance with both public and private sector clients on a global scale. Drop John a line to discuss this topic in more detail: john.desborough@mnp.ca