Five ways to shine a light on dark data – and find hidden value in it

Crown Records Management experts share their tips on making dark data work for your business

The very mention of dark data is enough to leave MDs and CEOs trembling in their boots but now businesses are being told there could be hidden value in excess data after all.
The modern data explosion has left many businesses struggling to decide what to keep and what to delete – with a fear that the Internet of Things will create even more to wade through in future.
John Culkin crown_10_editedHowever John Culkin, director of information management at Crown Records Management, believes it is time for the industry to see the light about dark data, normally defined as information assets that organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes.
He said: “Of course it is important for businesses to take control of dark data – there are costs and risks associated with not understanding or managing it. In this modern era, with new data protection regulation on the way, it is increasingly vital to know what data you have and where it is.
“But it is also time for businesses to stop thinking of dark data as something frightening. By thinking about data in a completely different way it is possible, through good information governance, to not only find the data, but manage it, own it and benefit from it.”
Here are five ways to shine a light on dark data and make it work for your business:
  1. Use File Level Analysis software, to analyse the content of data rather than just its creation and expiry date. It can help a business understand information content, type, size and location.
  2.  Map data sources generated by internal systems or received from external sources – this is about documenting ‘where’ and ‘why’ the data lives and how it was derived.
  3. Have an Information Governance programme in place supported by the most senior management levels and practiced every day.
  4. Plan to delete data from a database at specified times in the future. Even if you retain responsibly it’s easy to run out of time. Adjust your backup and disaster recovery plans so they no longer backup copies of unnecessary data.
  5. Talk and communicate with people because not everything will be officially documented or known about. Work-arounds and short-term fixes often become routine in the business place, so make people aware of the impact of not being able to manage everyone’s data effectively – it affects everyone.

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