Hidden data iceberg

How much of your company’s databerg is submerged?

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Businesses only really understand a small amount of the increasing amount of information they’re gathering about customers. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the pressure to get to grips with this aspect of their operations.

When they’re navigating a recession, businesses need to operate at even greater levels of efficiency than usual. There’s a natural reaction for consumers to spend less, meaning businesses must utilise all their assets and resources to keep their doors open. Costs are cut where possible, and profits have to be maximised. Simply put, businesses must do more with less, which creates a problem with the one major business asset that never stops growing - data.

Not only does data continue to grow, but so do the requirements around it, with increased legal compliance and ever evolving risks from external malfeasance. Now, more than ever, businesses need visibility, access and understanding of all of their data, particularly if they’re going to manage it effectively in a cash-strapped environment.

Modern working practices are increasingly calling for data availability in the cloud, something massively exacerbated by Covid-19 working patterns. With many people still working from home, a trend that could be here to stay, having flexible access to data is becoming increasingly important. The cloud enables exactly this.

Even before this accelerated evolution of work practices, businesses were keen to adopt cloud technology. In the 2015 Veritas Databerg report, IT decision makers predicted that 43 per cent of data would be stored in the cloud within a year. However, in this year’s follow-up 2020 Veritas UK Databerg report, the actual number only stands at 47 per cent. A 50 per cent growth of data in cloud environments took nearly five years, rather than the 12 months organisations had previously predicted. This growth has remained stunted, despite many businesses moving beyond some of the primary reservations that had held them back in 2015, with the proportion expressing fear about the cloud’s unpredictability dropping from 49 per cent to 21 per cent during this time.

Instead, these old fears have been superseded by new ones as businesses now cite concerns about data loss and compliance breaches as challenges to cloud adoption. These fears ultimately stem from a lack of control. To gain this sense of control, businesses need full visibility over their data.

As more and more businesses look to provide a more tailored customer experience, the amount of data they are collecting continues to grow, and as a result, they have an abundance of it at their disposal. Much of this data can be used to provide a real benefit, helping businesses to achieve their goals and achieve profitability.

However, the 2020 Databerg report revealed that 28 per cent of the data stored by businesses is either redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT), while a further 53 per cent is still considered ‘dark’ (data that is unclassified and untagged, meaning businesses are unsure what it is or if it has any value).

This means that just 19 per cent of the data businesses are currently using is recognised and understood. The huge levels of dark and ROT data that businesses carry comes down to one thing: inadequate data-management practices. There should be almost no data within the business that is unclassified. This lack of visibility means there’s either a plethora of data that could provide business value, or could be removed. Either way, it would help businesses use their data more efficiently, optimising storage spend in the process.

Furthermore, when data is combined with accurate and reliable insight solutions it can give businesses full visibility into what lives where, helping them remain compliant with data regulations such as GDPR. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations risk huge financial and reputational damage, particularly as consumers become more wary of how their data is being used in the wake of ransomware attacks, such as the high-profile Garmin breach. Businesses need confidence in their data-management practices to be able to move forward with conviction, and visibility is key to this.

Despite existing fears over data loss and compliance breaches, IT decision makers still expect 64 per cent of enterprise data to be stored in the cloud within the next year, which is well above the current growth rate. To achieve this, and avoid missing their business and technological objectives, businesses must find a way to overcome their fears of cloud adoption.

Moving all this date to the cloud may seem a Herculean task, and it’s by no means a simple or quick process. It’s understandable, especially given the fears around data loss and compliance breaches, that taking on the challenge using existing in-house resources may seem daunting to businesses. Leveraging the help of external technology partners can help offset these fears.

Given that most businesses have already started this journey in the wake of Covid-19, it’s vital that they see it through, and ensure that they are doing so safely, effectively and efficiently. This will not just provide them with immediate competitive advantage, but will do so in the future as well.

As the amount of data continues to rise, so does its value and the risk associated with it. During times of uncertainty, both economically and geopolitically, it’s vital that businesses are harnessing this value to its fullest potential. To achieve this, while avoiding the financial risk that comes with data regulations, businesses must have an understanding of all of their data: what it is, where it’s being stored and how to access it.

Whether businesses are storing their data on-premises, in the cloud or a hybrid of the two, they need this visibility so that they can operate and innovate with confidence. From this vantage point, they can use their data effectively and efficiently to navigate their way through the economic turbulence.

Ian Wood is senior director, head of technology UK&I, at Veritas Technologies.

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