Since cloud storage is now relatively cheap and it’s the norm to store customer data, either for service improvement and/or marketing purposes, businesses and organisations run the risk of data hoarding.

Signs your business may be a data hoarder

According to latest research figures on business data, the average business only requires 15% of the data it holds. This 15% is classed as business-critical data. A third of business data held is ‘trivial’ and over a half of data, is ‘dark’ data, which means its ‘unclassified’ and could be simply deleted with no loss to the business incurred.

What is a data hoarder and why is it so bad?

As with any other type of hoarding, data hoarding is the collection of unnecessary, irrelevant and excessive data, and a reluctance to get rid of it. But the danger of hoarding data is that it poses many risks to effective operation.

If you don’t understand the depth, breadth and reason for the data you hold, there is likely to be a telling lack of focus to your business that could lead ultimately to your failure to function successfully as well as rise to market challenges.

Another serious risk of data hoarding is that you are increasing your risk of a data security breach exponentially with the amount of data you are holding.

The signs you might be a data hoarder

  • You frequently run out of space

If you’re running out of space it means you don’t have a data management in place. What’s your long-term plan? You can’t keep on storing data indefinitely. If you have to constantly ‘sort’ data in order to get what you need for immediate work and project purposes, you are wasting valuable time and effort, and it’s a sign your data is in a mess.

  • You collect data, but there is very little planning or analysis going on

If you’re collecting data because ‘it might come in useful later’, that’s the wrong way to go about business planning and strategic analysis. Defining the problem comes first and then the strategic data for analysing the problem comes after. Data gathering first, without strategy means you are likely t get bogged down in swathes of irrelevant data that cloud the real issue.

  • You’re always moving data around but never delete any of it

If you can observe yourself transferring data from one outmoded form of storage to another, without ever asking yourself if you need it, then the chances are you haven’t deleted it and have got years of irrelevant data.

Getting a data management plan

Imagine suffering a data breach for data that you didn’t ever use, or even need to keep. Before this happens, take a long hard look at the data in your organisation and ask yourself if you understand it, if you are honestly ever going to use it, and whether it needs to go.

A data management plan can help you instil data erasure policies that will save you money over time on data storage, as well as make your business easier to understand, analyse and respond to change.

  • Get control of the inbox/es – delete the 1000s of old emails you are hanging onto  
  • Look at the storage you are paying for and stop the compulsion to just buy more 
  • Delete old accounts – often the focus of spam attacks and unnecessary vulnerabilities in your system 
  • Take a group approach - task staff with deleting unused files, folders and messages  
  • Keep data storage simple – have a clear reason and plan for the data you keep, anything over this, delete

A data management plan, and clear strategy around the data you keep will give your business improved focus, better compliance and significantly reduce risk of a security breach.