Many of us have a closet, attic, or even a basement corner for all the things that we’re not using but just aren’t ready to throw away quite yet. We just assume we’ll get to sorting what stays and what goes some other day.
The same is true for businesses – and usually the larger the enterprise, the more dark data they have. Many IT departments are burying huge amounts of data, resulting in digital mountains that are increasingly unwieldy to manage, let alone easily search through when key data discovery is needed.
Does your IT organization fit this description? If so, it’s time to recognize you have a problem. It’s called digital hoarding. You, my IT friend, are a data hoarder.
In the Age of Cheap Disk Pricing, What’s So Bad About Data Hoarding?
Those in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance are already familiar with data hoarding, and most feel the extra pressure to keep their data around. In fact, the law sometimes requires them to. And, with bigger, high-capacity disk storage always available, keeping everything for the conceivable future may even seem like good insurance or an ultimate, “just in case” fallback position.
But primary enterprise storage remains a costly budget item, especially when a good chunk of it may be used to store everything from outdated XLS files to file shares containing 23 copies of the same PowerPoint presentation. Then there are the legacy servers where 80 percent or more of the files may not have been touched in over 2 years.
Beyond the primary storage space needed to store this digital flotsam, much of this redundant data continues to take up valuable space in secondary and backup storage systems as well.
Despite its on-going storage costs, the worst part about digital hoarding is how hard it can be to find or retrieve the proverbial golden needle of important or sensitive data within your own digital haystack.
“The worst part about digital hoarding is how hard it can be to find or retrieve the proverbial golden needle of important or sensitive data”
Striking the Right Balance between Keeping Everything and Deleting Too Much
What to Keep: How many organizations have no real data retention policy, choosing instead to just keep everything? The numbers may surprise you. According to a 2015 IDC survey and report, Mining for Insight: Rediscovering the Data Archive, conducted on behalf of Iron Mountain, 42% of those companies surveyed have no archiving process and choose, instead, to archive everything.
“42% of those companies surveyed have no archiving process and choose, instead, to archive everything”
Keeping everything, however, can put your organization at greater risk. This SearchCompliance.com article, Why “Store Everything” Isn’t a Strategy for Information Governance, identifies 5 types of risks associated with storing all your digital data: Financial risk, legal risk, security risk, productivity risk and reputation risk.
“Keeping everything, however, can put your organization at greater risk”
What Not to Keep: In the past, companies have faced steep fines in court for either willful or negligent deletion of data that may have been potentially critical to the case at hand. Recent changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, now make it more viable to develop a legally defensible deletion policy. This type of policy can systematically, routinely, and even automatically identify and delete data that is no longer valuable. (Our C-Level Guide to Covering Your Information Governance Assets describes these changes in further detail.)
To Create Policy: In the end, there’s a wide spectrum of choice between keeping it all and deleting too much.
That spectrum requires some legwork, such as:
- Development of a data governance policy
- Performing data classification exercises to determine what’s important and what isn’t
- Assigning data retention requirements and data lifecycle requirements based on those classifications
- Use of third-party experts to help you audit your processes and separate out the good, the bad and the ugly within your own data stores
- Implementing the right tools and technologies to help you refine your efforts and put your emerging policies into action
“In the end, there’s a wide spectrum of choice between keeping it all and deleting too much”Much of this work falls under the category of data governance. If you’re on an IT team for a financial institution and are struggling with how best to manage your own retention requirements or fear you may be a data hoarder, check out our latest white paper for some actionable steps and a few pieces of good advice to help keep you sane.
We also urge you to contact us with specific questions related to your trickiest data governance areas.