Eliminate the data packrat mentality

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Millions of companies are hoarding old and unnecessary data. And the data they’re hoarding could be putting their organizations at risk, increasing storage costs and souring their analytics.

If you’ve ever walked into a hoarder’s home, you were likely met by endless piles of seemingly worthless things like newspapers, books, photographs and clothing. To the owner, though, these items are invaluable.

Now apply the same lens to the data on your computer. Could your organization be a data pack rat?

Psychology Today says people hoard for two reasons: they feel that they do not have permission to get rid of something or can’t imagine how to live without it. Those reasons can easily be attributed to hoarding multiple versions of the same letter, past reports, or old spreadsheets on your computer.

Most of us hoard data because we don’t know what to do with it. Often, we don’t even know what’s included in data from three, five, or even 10 years ago.

Collecting and storing data over time puts organizations at increased risk during ransomware attacks and creates what IT experts are calling “dark data.”

Gartner defines dark data as “the information assets organizations collect, process and store during business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes.” This data can impede the integrity of data analytics and erode your data security.

Dark files are usually temporary, created by programs, or work-in-progress files abandoned when a job is completed. Some of these files can contain sensitive information.

Potentially missed insights

Dark data can sneak into your analytics in the form of files or hidden folders. It can also get misplaced within computer systems and intermingle with the rest of the data. If you unknowingly use the wrong data, you will get misleading results, sabotaging your analysis and leading to missed insights when using business intelligence (BI) tools.

Information hiding in the dark can prevent you from recognizing your organization’s entire data landscape. It can hinder your company from having a real grasp of how much data the organization actually possesses and what that data contains.

These dark files may contain irreplaceable information about your internal processes, which you could use to improve your productivity. Others might include information about customers that you could use to better your customer service. Or it could expose you to liabilities if that personal data is compromised.

If there’s a dark file that contains more up-to-date information or more accurate information than what you’re feeding into your business intelligence tools, you could be making decisions based on false pretenses.

Shine the light on dark data and dark files

A data audit or data assessment can help shine the light on dark data and reveal potential threats to your organization. This process scans your entire file system and explores the deepest crevasses of your company. The assessment can also read the data in unstructured files and reveal their content.

Once uncovered, you can classify that data and decide if you want to delete your dark files or move them into a more suitable location. For example, less important data might be transferred to a more affordable storage solution, or sensitive data can be recorded and placed in a more secure location that is more easily searched and accessed.

You can identify redundant files, obsolete files and trash data to take control of your information and deliver more value to your organization. Much like using a metal detector at the beach, you’ll find plenty of junk, yet you may find some buried treasure that you could use to improve your organization.

By eliminating the data pack rat mentality, you can avoid a backlog in data management and limit the unstructured data that could be subjected to a ransomware attack, providing a more efficient and secure data environment.

Adrian Knapp is the CEO and founder of Aparavi

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