Storage Administrators, Look Out: The Data Admin Is Coming

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.

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

“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

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

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.

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.”