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'Dark data' is costing businesses vast sums

(Image credit: Panumas Nikhomkhai / Pexels)

Almost half of all business data is “dark”, meaning companies are either unaware of its existence or unsure of its contents.

Sitting dormant on servers, this unclassified data leaks cost and is impossible to monetise, therefore representing huge sums in untapped value, according to data management firm Veritas.

Clearing out, organising and utilising “dark” data could have a number of benefits for businesses that lack visibility over the information they hold.

“This data is stored on [businesses’] infrastructure, they’re paying for it to be backed up, but they don’t even know it’s there,” Jasmit Sagoo, Head of Technology UK&I at Veritas, told TechRadar Pro.

“On average, there are seven copies of every document within an organisation, across file shares, emails and so on. In one organisation, we found 60 percent of the data hadn’t been touched by anyone for seven years."

Data visibility

The management of unstructured data - such as documents, images, emails and pdfs - represents a “huge area of potential growth,” says Sagoo.

He believes there are several ways better managing “dark” data can help businesses make savings and tap into new revenue streams. These include eliminating duplicate and defunct files, and using previously underutilised data to gain market insight and competitive edge.

To this end, Veritas has geared its offering towards helping businesses unearth value in data stores. Using machine learning algorithms, its classification engine “bursts open each document, performs an analysis and automatically places metatags against it.”

These metatags can tell a business the subject of a document, and what types of information it contains (e.g. PII, financial information, contact details). The business can then make a judgement as to whether the data should be filed away or destroyed.

Another issue with “dark” data is that it could be in breach of data protection regulations such as GDPR, unbeknownst to the business.

According to Sagoo, “by creating visibility, businesses can save on potential fines for lack of compliance, reduce costs by deleting unnecessary data, and possibly even actively monetise the data they didn’t know existed in the first place.”

Although he declined to attach a figure to the potential savings, citing the variance in costs between storing data in the cloud versus on premise, Sagoo emphasised the importance of visibility in a world in which the amount of data produced is on an exponential trajectory.

“Once you know what data you have, you can apply the correct policies to that data. Otherwise, your organisation is operating in complete darkness,” he said.

“Businesses shouldn’t sink funds every year into just managing and maintaining data, but rather into addressing data properly, utilising it, and using the cost savings to innovate.”