Technology sector’s hidden issue: a landfill of data

A computer graphic showing an abstract computer network of data
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Worldwide data generation has grown exponentially. By 2025 the global “datasphere” is estimated to reach a staggering 180 zettabytes. With this amount of data comes a bigger responsibility of managing it. If companies don’t manage their data well, there may be financial, environmental and security impacts.

Data transmission and storage requires energy to power data centres and this is often generated from non-renewable sources. With the advent of AI, requiring even larger volumes of easily accessible data, the amount of energy required to store and manage this data will increase, and this all comes at an environmental cost. There is concern around the growing carbon emissions from data centres, particularly against a backdrop of rising energy costs, as well as the environmental impact. Storing and managing data costs in various ways, and new findings from NetApp’s Data Waste Index released in April revealed that a lack of data management accountability in the UK means that 41% of data is being stored for no reason.

In this article I hope to shed light on the hidden issue of data waste for IT leaders to address common challenges they have and how we can reduce the landfill of data that will help us become more efficient, compliant, and sustainable.

Matt Watts

Matt Watts is Chief Technology Evangelist at NetApp.

IT’s underlying issue

IT businesses are not only accumulating increasing amounts of data now, but they are also wasting an enormous amount of money on data storage - for data that is often never used again. This waste is the data that businesses, organizations and people produce and then store that is unwanted, unused, and never utilized. NetApp’s Data Waste Index that surveyed IT leaders across the UK shows how data waste is an ongoing problem. It will only become greater as the amount of data collected by UK businesses increases. The research also found that IT leaders are feeling the responsibility of managing this data landfill, and as a result, 75% of IT leaders are finding excess data storage to be a source of stress during their working day.

Many feel ill-prepared to handle the issue with many leaders are in fear of backlash from customers (42%), having an overwhelming amount of data to sift through (34%), and understanding how much data they store and where (33%).

Common challenges

To tackle these problems confidently, IT teams need digital tools that can help them manage the increasing volumes of data. The research showed that CTOs and CIOs often don’t feel fully supported by their organization to confidently perform their duties. Uncertainty around budget cuts and a difficult economic period has led many IT leaders to feel overwhelmed. It is important that organizations have the right infrastructure in place for CTOs and CIOs to feel confident in their leadership roles to implement important data management practices to reduce waste.

IT leaders also need visibility of all their data to ensure they comply with evolving data regulation standards. If they don’t, they could face fines and reputational damage. Nobody can trust a business if they can’t locate, retrieve, or validate data they hold – especially if it is their customer’s data!

How we can reduce the landfill of data

Businesses on average are spending £213,000 per year in maintaining their data via data storage. This is expected to rise considerably as more and more data is collected across businesses for operational, employee and customer analytics. However, in some cases these data management efforts, have failed to deliver better systems that reduce waste.

The technology sector also needs to address this issue of data waste.

Data canters huge consumers of energy, with Greenpeace predicting that 20% of the world’s total electricity will be consumed by the tech sector by 2025. So, what can be done? Moving data into the cloud and working with hyperscale providers that could help improve sustainability may be one of the steps that IT leaders could take. But asking what data an organization needs to collect and how is it being used is the first step. From there we can investigate what data should be retained on an archive basis instead of having it constantly active.

In conclusion, IT departments need to be supported and given the correct tools so that they can have visibility of their data estates. This visibility can give them the confidence and empower them to sort and dispose of data waste more effectively. Accomplishing this task will not only unlock the benefits of a more authentic sustainability initiative they have in mind, but also improve efficiency and confirm compliance.

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Matt Watts

Matt Watts is Chief Technology Evangelist at NetApp.