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SA firms swimming in ‘dark’ data

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Companies in South Africa highest rates of “dark” data stored in their corporate networks – with a massive 58% of the data held by organisations unknown to the IT professionals.
This data could contain everything from holiday snaps to pirated content, creating a high risk of non-compliance.
This is among the findings of the Databerg Report 2015 from Veritas Technologies, which looked at how public and private sector organisations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa manage their data.
“The key findings of the Databerg Report 2015 demonstrate data is not currently delivering on its promise for South African organisations and reflect that companies invest a significant amount of resources to maintain data they don’t know anything about,” says Nick Christodoulou, country manager South Africa at Veritas. “The study also reveals the discipline of South African’s employees is one of the worst in the region. One in three employees would treat their company’s IT as their own and upload photos, non-approved software or copies of their personal legal and identity documents on corporate networks. This only adds up to the 32% of trivial data South African organisations are currently holding.”
The survey provides insights on how 1 475 respondents (including 100 in South Africa) in 14 different countries across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are dealing with the challenges surrounding turning data into valued business information. The report introduces a new phenomenon called the “Databerg”, represented by three major types of data stored by organisations today:
* Business critical data – data identified as being vital to the on-going operation and success of the organisation. Business critical data needs to be proactively protected and managed in real time by professionals with clear responsibility to the organisation’s management team.
* ROT data – data identified as Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial. ROT data needs to be proactively minimised and safely deleted on a regular basis.
* Dark data – data value has not been identified. It may include vital business critical data, useless ROT data or most importantly illegal or non-compliant data, leaving an unseen liability at the heart of corporate IT systems.
The study found a typical South African organisation reports dark data rates of 58% (EMEA average is 54%), ROT levels of 32% (EMEA average is 32%), leaving just 10% (EMEA average is 14%), of identifiable business critical data. This equates to wasted corporate resources of up to an estimated R12-trillion in EMEA by 2020 just for maintaining ROT data if companies don’t change their strategy and culture around information management.
As organisations move more data into the cloud to cope with the escalating data volumes, study insights revealed that cloud storage and processing will increase by a third from 33% to 45% across EMEA over the next twelve months. With 48% of respondents in South Africa stating they will utilise cloud storage facilities by 2016, the country is ahead of the regional average, according to the Databerg Report 2015. However, organisations adopting these cloud services might not have appropriate policies to calculate the follow-up costs, switch to another provider or to retreat from the cloud in case of emergency.
The survey identified three major causes for Databerg growth. These relate to how data volumes disproportionately affect IT strategy, how vendor hype is driving the widespread adoption of currently “free” storage and how employees are endangering corporate data through their own actions and becoming data hoarders:
* IT strategies based on data volumes not business value;
* An increased reliance in “free” storage such in the cloud; and
* A growing disregard for corporate data policies by employees.
According to the survey, all these factors are the major causes of dark data and ROT data, as it moves corporate resources away from the direct line of sight of management teams. It can also, thanks to impending legislation, present legal issues and business risks, which are not obvious at the time of purchase or usage.
The following steps can be taken for organisations to gain valuable insights into their information and in-turn reduce the associated risks:
* Identify dark data, expose risk and recognise valuable information;
* Eliminate ROT promptly to reduce wasted costs;
* Define a workable information governance strategy for unstructured data with C-level endorsement to encourage compliant user behaviour; and
* Increase business agility by utilising cloud storage environments.