Top secret

Mucking up the best-laid security plans everywhere is the messy issue of how enterprises are supposed to cope with staggering amounts of unstructured data, some of it for internal eyes only, such as ad hoc files generated by e-mail and other applications. It's a huge problem that only the smallest of vendors right now are ready to tackle.

Many technology executives are taking note of the new breed of data classification or information content management (ICM) offerings, which promise to help set policies and access controls on sensitive data buried in unruly, unstructured data sets. Vendors are positioning ICM storage software as an alternative to labor-intensive content management or metadata tools.

Holding back ICM adoption rates, however, is the newcomer status of data classification vendors and the level of complexity sometimes involved in harnessing ICM for security enhancement, according to several market analysts and enterprise IT officials now exploring the data classification market.

"ICM tools can help define security-sensitive data and prevent it from being incorrectly exposed," says Mayur Raichura, managing director of information services at Fairfax, Va.-based real estate company The Long & Foster Cos. "If correctly done, ICM tools can provide reasonable assurances that [sensitive] data is not exposed."

Finding a Balance

Yet in Raichura's opinion, correct use of ICM products can easily amount to extra work for enterprise IT shops. "How are you going to get expert users to identify and classify terabytes' worth of data, most of it unstructured, when they have regular jobs to do? Without a doubt, it can be done with the right allocation of resources," he says.