Q&A: Looking in the data cupboard and why dark data matters to business

December 21, 2022

© Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP
Throughout the enterprise, dark data estimations vary from 40-90 percent, depending on industry. If not properly managed, dark data creates misinformed decisions impacting strategy and overall data risk.
Gartner predicted that through 2021, more than 80 percent of organizations would fail to implement a concrete data security policy, leading to noncompliance risks, financial liabilities, and security breaches.
To understand dark data better, Digital Journal spoke with Jerod Johnson, technical evangelist at CData on how dark data is costing organizations.
Digital Journal: What is dark data?
Jerod Johnson: Dark data is all of the data that organizations collect and store while doing business, but never end up using to gain insights or make decisions.
DJ: How can organizations manage their dark data?
Johnson: The amount of data being generated and collected by organizations today is staggering. Too often though, these organizations aren’t taking advantage of their mass volumes of data – either because they don’t know that it’s available to them, or they can’t gain access to it. 
The first step to managing dark data is to build a comprehensive understanding of the data your organization has and is collecting, then find which data points are being used and which are merely being stored. This can involve classifying your data and defining tiers of importance and usage. Once you know what dark data your organization has stored, you can take time to categorize that data and determine its usefulness.
DJ: How can managing dark data lead to improved business decisions?
Johnson: By effectively managing your dark data, you can start discovering things you didn’t know about your organization and, perhaps more importantly, discovering the holes in your knowledge base. With a more complete view of your business, you can make more informed decisions based on historical data and more accurate predictions.
DJ: How does managing dark data help prevent waste from taking over data budgets?
Johnson: There is more data out there than ever before, which means organizations are spending more resources on storing that data – from financial costs to burdening IT teams and securing physical storage space. Managing dark data will help your organization save on these resources by identifying what data needs to be stored and for how long, reducing unnecessary and wasteful storage.
DJ: Anything else you’d like to add?
Johnson: It’s important to note that dark data is not inherently harmful. And much of the dark data that remains dark (i.e. isn’t used to provide value for the organization) is often kept within the organization for internal retention and compliance policies. For example, companies may have policies in place to retain log files for devices and applications, emails to and from former employees, or even footage from CCTV cameras and security systems.

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