The Consequences Of Data Hoarding

Paul Gillin

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At some point during the past decade, storage costs crossed a threshold that made it cheaper and easier for organizations to keep data than to throw it away. That technology trend is only accelerating. The cost of disk storage has dropped more than 90% from $1.24 in 2005 to less than two cents per GB this year. Cloud providers further encourage users to retain data by making gobs of storage space available at very low prices.

People are responding as you would expect. A new Veritas global survey of more than 10,000 office professionals and IT decision-makers found that 82% admitted to data hoardinga. More alarming is that three-quarters of them said they hold on to data that could harm their organization. Examples include unencrypted personnel records, applications for jobs at other companies, trade secrets and embarrassing correspondence.

This isn’t all that surprising. Nobody likes to clean out their files. In fact, in response to a whimsical scenario Veritas posed in its study, nearly half of office professionals said they’d rather get rid of all their clothes or work weekends for three months than clean out their digital files. The top reasons they cited for failing to cull information is fear that they’ll need it again (47%) and uncertainty about which files to delete (43%).

Data hoarding isn’t just a motherhood-and-apple-pie issue; it can have serious consequences for the business. Among them are:

Legal and regulatory exposure – Most regulations specify how long data must be kept. There is no benefit for companies to hold on to information beyond those deadlines. Quite the contrary. Old data may be discoverable in legal or regulatory actions, even if your company isn’t the target. For example, an employee in a job discrimination case may demand that previous employers turn over personnel records. Your old data could thus become discoverable, embroiling you in someone else’s legal dispute. – costing you time and money to find and restore the data.

Security – Cybercriminals are adept at unearthing value in everything that they steal. As some recent high profile incidents have shown, old emails, embarrassing photos and compensation data can be used to blackmail victims, expose employees to ridicule and damage the reputation of the organization. Outside of regulatory requirements, there is no reason to keep any data that could be used against the company or its people.

Cost – Authors of the Veritas study estimated that poor data cleansing practices will create $891 billion of avoidable storage and management costs worldwide by 2020. International Data Corp. expects the amount of data organizations generate and save will double annually through the end of this decade. Storage media prices may be low, but the cost of people to manage all that information is only increasing. Unnecessary data costs money.

Access – Rapid information retrieval is essential to nearly any business in this time of digital transformation. Companies need to personalize the customer experience and that means having immediate access to all information about each customer. Outdated or irrelevant information mixed in with operational data slows down this process and creates the potential for confusion and errors.

A good data governance policy, combined with automated solutions, can relieve much of the burden of data hoarding – and lead to a sound data management lifecycle strategy. Information can be tagged according to its value, sensitivity, timeliness and other factors. Data lifecycle management tools can then automatically store information in the most appropriate location and delete that which is no longer needed. An experienced information management firm with broad cross-industry expertise can make this process painless and ensure that data hoarding doesn’t become a liability. Learn more about the value of data lifecycle management.

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