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Stop Wasting Money: How to Control Data Rot

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The Compliance, Governance, and Oversight Council estimated that many large companies spend over $34 million dollars to store and protect data they could harmlessly delete. Of course, this sort of useless information doesn’t just cost money to keep. It can also slow down critical business functions and expose companies to even more expensive threats.

This sort of redundant, obsolete, and trivial data even has an appropriate acronym now. It’s called ROT.  Most companies can find ROT lurking within their shared servers, on employee devices, and even in the cloud. If you could save millions or even several thousand dollars a year by cleaning up data, it’s a worthy project to consider.

What’s Wrong With ROT?

Naturally, businesses need to hold onto some old data that they don’t access very often. They might need it for audits, regulatory compliance, or the chance it will have business value later. ROT doesn’t refer to that type of information. Even more, a good process for planning to eliminate useless data will also ensure that valuable information stays protected. A good plan should include prioritizing various kinds of documents to make certain that every kind gets the protection it needs. This kind of plan will eliminate useless baggage and protect valuable information even better.

Mostly, ROT doesn’t just cost extra money to store and protect, though that’s certainly a major consideration. Consider these five ways that storing useless data can hamper your organization:

  • Additional infrastructure and support costs: Obviously, your company has to pay to store and protect data that it cannot use, and which might even add additional risks.
  • Lags for requests for truly valuable information that can slow important responses or decisions: Reduction of ROT can trim databases and speed up processing times.
  • Difficulty demonstrating compliance and responding to discovery requests: Again, this type of worthless data makes it harder to obtain valuable information.
  • More likely to get breached or compromised because of poorer management: Very often, ROT exists because nobody takes ownership of it, so it’s less likely to be protected. Even if the information’s not helpful to the organization, some of it could still benefit hackers.
  • Potential for increased liability: The records may be obsolete for the organization and kept past regulatory rules but still damaging in case of lawsuits.

How to Plan for ROT Removal

Your company did not collect all of this bad data in a day. You may even encounter some resistance from employees who don’t want to take the time or have different opinions about the data’s potential value. Like most worthy endeavors, removing it my take some effort and cooperation. You can justify your careful plan to remove data debris by demonstrating how your efforts will save your company money, reduce threats, and make it easier to protect the documents that you do need.

Consider including these suggestions in your plan to avoid maintaining no-value data now and in the future:

  • Consider the kinds of information you keep: As the Association for Intelligent Information Management, or AIIM, suggests, consider ways to keep from collecting redundant and trivial information in the first place.  If you have a business reason to collect some low-value information, perhaps you can keep it archived to minimize storage and security expenses.
  • Rely upon a central data repository: A central repository will dramatically reduce redundancy. It should also prevent each user from needed to maintain their information. In turn, that should reduce the chance of introducing errors and obsolescence.
  • Use technology to help: Good data management systems can help root out bad, redundant, or old information with sophisticated search functions and automated functions. With the right tech, preventing and reducing ROT won’t require that much of a manual burden.
  • Set and communicate the right policies: Most companies can’t control every employee action through software. Employees need to understand the benefits of reducing data ROT and how to comply with your efforts.

Why Start Planning to Clean Up Your Data Sooner and Not Later

Like most other sources of contamination, ROT rarely cleans itself up. Naturally, the problem will only grow worse if you don’t take steps to minimize it now. Meanwhile, your bad, outdated, or duplicate data could cost your organization millions of dollars and leave it vulnerable to threats. Your efforts should start by gaining cooperation, prioritizing information, clearly establishing benefits, and of course, communicating the benefits.

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