A recent study by analyst firm IDC has found that, in 2011 alone, 1.8 zettabytes (or 1,8-trillion gigabytes) of data will be created. Over the next decade, the number of servers managing the world's data stores will grow by 10 times, and yet the number of people with the skills and experience to manage the fast-growing stores of corporate data simply isn't keeping pace with demand.
But if all a company does is keep storing more data, and is unsuccessful at finding the gold in it, then there will be little if any return on any investments in that information. This is where data specialists like Database 360 are essential to any business looking to get value out of particular information in an industry.
“There is suddenly too much data out there, and while firms rush to mine it, they do so without adequate regard for the risks in keeping and using it, and all too often without the proper tools or know-how in how to get it right,” says Louise Robinson, sales director at Database 360.
She explains that because corporate data is its business, Database 360 not only follows all of the legal requirements in obtaining and managing data, but has the expertise to ensure that all of the information in a particular database is fresh, relevant and correct.
"This is where real opportunities lie, and where many companies may miss the boat,” she says.
This is especially true in Africa and the Middle East, where the emerging economies on the continent are growing rapidly, but where corporate data is a minefield due to the nature of businesses in these countries.
“International organisations looking to do business in Africa are finding a confusion of information, and many have been burned by buying databases with incorrect or incomplete information. Our foundation in South Africa has allowed us to help our clients overcome these obstacles with accurate and up-to-date databases for businesses across the continent,” says Robinson.
"This is another illustration where data, if not managed properly, can be more detrimental to your business than a lack of data.”
Hardly a week goes by without yet another major breach or scandal involving data. The last few months have been particularly bad. TomTom sold location data to law enforcement in the US without asking its consumers, Apple has been gathering consumer movement and use data on its devices, while Epsilon and Sony were hacked, with sensitive data on hundreds of millions of individuals stolen.
Despite reassurances from these companies, it is hard to be certain whether and when this data will be misused. More importantly, the reputations of these companies have been badly damaged.
“Are these incidents any different in terms of potential impacts on companies from product recalls due to defects in industrial products? Not really. Increasingly, it is information itself that is the product, with technology being the critical conduit for its exchange,” Robinson points out.
“Information products have different properties to traditional physical products and are subject to different economics and risks. Furthermore, the growing volume of data created as a by-product of this digital interaction brings with it significant benefits as well as risks.”
Which makes more business sense: painstakingly collecting, collating and analysing data that may end up to be useless, or using a third-party provider that has the infrastructure in place to ensure that businesses get the information they need, with the peace-of-mind in knowing that all legal angles are covered?