Five Reasons You Can’t Ignore Your ROT and Dark Data

Every day employees throughout an organization create, save, share, and store data to do their jobs – and A LOT of it.  This data is the backbone of the organization, and the bulk of it is considered unstructured which means it doesn’t have a standard structure such as a traditional database.  It is content such as emails and productivity documents — reports, spreadsheets, and presentations.  However, the business value of data lessens over time. 

Two popular terms are used frequently to describe data that is no longer useful or being used:  ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial) and Dark Data.  These data forms are described as follows:

  • Redundant – Multiple copies of the same data
    Multiple copies are typically created when data isn’t well integrated among business units needing access to it.  These multiple copies are in addition to backups created by employees or for data management purposes.
  • Outdated – Content that is no longer accurate or serves a purpose
    As individuals or systems create and store data, the data may become inaccurate or irrelevant over time.  The problem with outdated information is it typically isn’t deleted either by individuals or automated processes. 
  • Trivial – Information unlikely to be used or needed
    Much content is created and shared quickly as daily tasks are completed.  Much of this content is useful for only a short period of time.  Once acted upon or used for decision making, however, it’s value diminishes over time.  As with outdated content, the problem with trivial information is it typically isn’t deleted.
  • Dark Data – Data not being analyzed or used
    Dark data could be useful; however, it’s called “dark” because no one knows what it is.  Thus, it’s not used to its fullest potential to make decisions or to more efficiently complete tasks or projects.

As data accumulates, so does ROT and Dark Data.  Gartner’s research estimates up to 85 percent of enterprise data is ROT or Dark Data.  That means organization dollars are spent storing, securing, and managing data that no longer has business value – not to mention eDiscovery and data subject access request costs associated with reviewing data with no relevance.  If ROT and Dark Data aren’t addressed today, the problem gets exponentially worse as it’s estimated unstructured data grows by 55 – 65 percent per year.

5 Reasons Why ROT and Dark Data are Costly

ROT and Dark Data negatively affect the organization’s bottom line.  Let’s examine the costs associated with these data forms:

  1. Data Storage
    Storage is the most obvious cost.  Data has to be stored somewhere.  Whether it be on file shares or in the cloud, the organization is paying to store data.  Gartner estimates the fully loaded cost of storing one TB of data per year is $3,351.  Fully loaded costs include hardware, maintenance, FTE(s), power, HVAC and connectivity.  Cloud storage costs may be less, but ROT and Dark Data accumulate quickly.  Plus, your cloud storage costs may include fees for every time files are accessed.  Simply buying more storage is NOT the solution.  It only exasperates the problem and enables poor content management.  (Read more about the importance of data management)
  2. Data Breaches
    Breaches most commonly occur when content is not well managed and there isn’t a clear understanding of where data should be stored and for how long (Read more about the impact of data retention).  Research from the Ponemon Institute and IBM estimates the average cost of a breach to be $3.8 million plus an average cost of lost business to be $1.42 million.  Breach costs may include fines, private rights of action or sanctions.  However, these costs may be minimal compared to a tarnished reputation causing customers to go elsewhere.
  3. Compliance Fines
    Numerous data breach laws across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have stipulations requiring notification when security breaches of personally identifiable information (PII) or sensitive data occur.  Regulatory agencies enforcing these laws have fined organizations millions of dollars with a recent fine of Amazon approaching $1 billion.  But again, fines and sanctions may be minimal when compared to losing consumer trust.  According to a McKinsey survey, 87 percent of consumers say they would not do business with a company if they had concerns about its security practices.
  4. Productivity
    Lost productivity is a very real financial cost.  On average, workers spend 36 percent of the day looking for and consolidating information.  However, 44 percent of the time, they can’t find the information and are left to re-create it.  The cost of time searching and not finding data is estimated to be $5,700 per worker per year.
  5. Loss of Revenue Sources
    Dark data has the potential to create new revenue sources.  If properly analyzed, it has the potential to provide information that can be exploited for strategic decision making.  If not analyzed, it’s no better than ROT and negatively affects the bottom line. 

Innovative Driven recommends reducing legacy data (the “stuff” you’ve been saving forever) and modernizing workflows to reduce ROT and Dark Data accumulation going forward.  We use a variety of tools and a proven methodology to customize an information governance solution for each unique organization. 

Let’s do it together.  ID will help you identify what content is needed for legal and business reasons and dispose of content that has little or no value minimizing costs and risks.

Written by: Innovative Driven

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