Mark R. Anderson likens his company's data management software to organizing a closet. Think of putting aside an expensive coat in a moth-proof chest, he says, but only after you jot down where you bought it, how much it cost, when you last wore it and when it went to the cleaners.

Similarly, Overtone Software's products take inactive data and store it where it is safe but out of the way, said Anderson, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

"We clean the fat out of your servers," he said.

Overtone Software is in a field, known as information life cycle management, that has evolved from shuttling around databases and e-mails to more sophisticated tracking and storage technology, Anderson said.

Demand is growing, he said, as companies seek to comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley reporting requirements for public companies and the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Increasingly, companies are being required to keep data for a number of years.

Using traditional storage technology, an e-mail more than 30 days old would be stored on a computer tape drive. Finding and transferring the document if it's subpoenaed for a lawsuit might cost $4,000 to $5,000 and take several weeks, Anderson said.

With Overtone Software's products, Anderson said, the company could retrieve that e-mail in seconds at a cost that is factored into the price of buying its merchandise.

Overtone Software's product tracks data by categories, including the age of the data and what level of access is needed to open the document. It uses newly developed disks that are less expensive than previous storage media. Another product moves inactive data to secondary storage but leaves a marker where the data were created so the data can be retrieved using a word or content search, Anderson said. He compared it with using indexed scenes to find a favorite part of a DVD rather than scrolling back and forth through a VCR tape.

Overtone Software estimates that a company with 50 to 500 employees stores 5 terabytes of data, about a quarter of the text in the Library of Congress, at a cost of at least $92,000 a year. Backup copies of that data can run about $428,000 a year.

With Overtone Software's products, Anderson said, clients can save about $150,000 annually in data storage and management.

Mark R. Anderson, left, George Sullivan and Demsas Abraha are at the helm of Overtone Software, a data management company.