Beware the dangerous databerg lurking beneath your business’ surface

Why managing the dark and potentially dangerous data held by businesses needs to be a top priority for the C-Level in 2016.

IT leaders have never been under more pressure. Despite shrinking (or stagnant) IT budgets, big businesses are asking IT teams to blaze a new trail towards digital transformation to improve management decisions, and speed the development of new products and services.

Digital Transformation is a hot topic for businesses across the globe – and many businesses are struggling to keep up. In the majority of cases, the CIO and the IT department have limited resources to innovate and are left simply to keep the lights on.

And what is it that drives this digital transformation? It’s the data. We’re looking at the next incarnation of the industrial revolution – but this time it’s fully digitalised. Clever management of the right data is the key to unlocking new opportunities and new ways of working. But no one could have predicted the sheer scale of the explosion in data. IDC predicts that the digital universe will reach an inconceivable 44 zettabytes by 2020 – ten times that in existence today, as more and more devices and people become connected.

Businesses have reacted to this growing data revolution by hoarding data in the hope that one day they’ll get round to mining it for something useful, or because it’s just not a priority to do something about it. Employees, meanwhile are downloading anything from personal music and photos to shopping lists on the same servers. Sold on the myth that storage is cheap, businesses are adding bolt-on cloud capacity with limited thought to the ongoing associated costs involved in managing this vast and distributed pool of information.

According to a recent European report entitled 'Databerg,' many businesses have an opportunity to transform its IT department by identifying the data that is business critical and delete the data that doesn’t add value back to the business. The research results identified a great, lumbering mass comprised of 54 per cent of unidentified dark data and 32 per cent redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) data lurking beneath the surface of businesses, with barely 14 per cent of the data identified as critical. I estimate that, left unchecked, this could equate to more than £693bn of avoidable storage and management cost by 2020 in EMEA firms alone. This is rarely seen as a single figure as it sits across all cost centres and is hidden in Capex and Opex. But if it were a single line item on the CFO’s report, it would certainly be demanding attention and immediate action.

But the Databerg isn’t only a cost concern – it also represents a serious compliance risk. In May 2018, the European parliament will be implementing the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of EU-wide laws designed to harmonise data protection across the region. The new regulation will give individuals the right to manage their own personal data, to be made aware of data breaches, and to be ‘forgotten’, once the organisation is able to present results from searching EVERY data source under its control. But how can businesses hope to comply if 54 per cent of the data they hold is ‘dark’, and they struggle to locate where specific information is held across multiple cloud and on-premise facilities? This potentially risky data could lead to serious brand integrity issues and hefty fines if a regulatory inquiry is raised (GDPR set this at 4 per cent of annual turnover, or €20,000,000, whichever is greater, for a major breach).

In order to avoid spiralling data management costs and the risk of sweeping sanctions, European businesses need to take action – and quickly. This starts with finding that dark data using technology that can work out where it resides, what’s in it and who has access to it. This will then allow businesses to build a culture to embrace automation, improve processes, remove the ROT and encourage employees to proactively maintain and manage the precious, business-critical data.

Data can only be used as a real force for good when it’s managed and analysed with the right technology. In a world where data is the new currency, businesses simply can’t afford to hoard meaningless or potential non-compliant data – from a cost, compliance and business productivity standpoint. Business leaders must take action now to gain greater visibility and take control of their data before it starts to cause bigger issues below the decks.

Few predicted that growth in data volumes would one day outstrip our ability to control it. Now, at last, it has. 2016 is the time for business leaders to steer clear of the Databerg, before it sinks them all.

Chris Bridgland, senior director at Veritas technologies

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