NARA CDO Reflects on Changing Data Landscape

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Gulam Shakir, chief data officer of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), shared his views on the changing data landscape at the April 28 FedInsider Safeguarding Data Through Backup and Recovery webinar.

As NARA’s mission is closely aligned with the safeguarding of data, Shakir shared some of the challenges his agency has had to overcome. For example, the agency must convert all data into “a format that is acceptable” with metadata before it can be archived.

Shakir added that all data must always be kept ready for processing, whether that is for a search engine or application to artificial intelligence algorithms. “Data is actually dynamic in this case, and there is no limit to the volume of the data that you can process right now that you can do to enable discovery or analysis,” he said.

Another challenge is ensuring safe data access, Shakir said. He explained that understanding data access patterns, ranging from through the application, organization, or the general public, can help the agency keep it safe. The “best solution” to overcoming this problem, Shakir said, “is use role-based access so you can set up and slowly set up as you need it.”

Shakir also said that there is also no “upper limit” on the size and volume of data growth. “It used to be if you want to plan for big data resources, you would invest in your data center … Right now, the world is more towards an on-demand model,” he asserted.

As recently as ten years ago, Shakir said that the cloud wasn’t there to accommodate data center growth. Instead, agencies would invest in their data centers every decade and would have to overcome the limited capacity challenges, he explained. Shakir said that data storage can now be set up to accommodate whatever operational budget that an agency may have.

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