File Analysis Series: File Management

The importance of managing files for data control and enterprise insights


When it comes to enterprise data, it is easy to fixate on the ones and zeros; however, the vast majority of data—upwards of 90%—is unstructured, human-created information. Despite the large percentage of unstructured data stored in enterprise systems, this data is often left in the dark—unused and unknown. Hidden in these files are risks and assets waiting to be found and exploited. Accordingly, it is crucial for organizations to peer into their dark data file management, harnessing control to reduce risks and derive insights.

Not harnessing files is dangerous

As outlined in the previous file analysis post, storing files without a firm understanding of what resides within is a dangerous endeavor. From an operational perspective, holding onto unnecessary documents can noticeably reduce server capabilities, slow enterprise searches, and burden IT leaders. A lack of file management also presents a major security risk as enterprise defenses are only as secure as its weakest link, and ROT files tend to have outdated or non-existent security policies. Not knowing the content embedded in files can also potentially lead to costly non-compliance as they may contain personal identifying information. These risk factors coalesced together often serve as the breaking point for organizations to seriously pursue file management projects; however, the benefits of controlling enterprise data extend far past risk reduction, as harnessing this data allows companies the opportunity to glean insights into their organization.

Managing files for control

In order to derive insights, organizations must first establish governance over their files. Easier said than done, the primary hurdle in managing files is being able to differentiate and categorize them from one another. Typically, file analysis software does this by diving into file metadata and content and establishing an array of potential classifications depending on the file’s information. For example, using metadata systems can declare custodian-based rules, such as keeping all senior management files as permanent records and flagging “junk” domains for disposal. While custodians are one way to categorize documents, other means include timestamps, events, keywords, phrases, file type, along with thousands of other niche use cases that can be designed to fit the specific user’s needs.

Leveraging file management for strategic insight

Once able to reliably distinguish between documents, organizations can more effectively manage files to reduce risks and derive insights. Addressing each major risk, file analysis efforts serve as a cure for organizational ROT: redundant documents can be consolidated, obsolete data will be flagged for deletion, and trivial files will not be saved in the first place. Notably, clearing our ROT will immediately ease server and IT workloads, thereby saving organizations the money and labor required to maintain bloated servers. File governance also provides a systematic means for ensuring security policies are in place on each newly created file and a retroactive means of assessing the security privileges of existing documents. Regarding privacy compliance and remediation, organizations can target personal information with content analytics and pattern recognition to flag potential violations.

Surpassing preventative uses, file management and analytics can provide key insights into the human element of an organization. Notably, visualizations into files at an enterprise, project, or document level can provide decision-makers deeper understandings of their data and employees who created it. Possible HR use cases include understanding informal employee networks and fairly assessing employee productivity. Additionally, analytics into files can reveal overarching enterprise truths, such as what projects have received the most traction and where departments are spending their energies. In general, the use cases of unstructured analytics are only limited by the user’s imagination as almost every aspect of an organization can be seen in the documents they create.

The last post in our file analysis series will cover ZL Tech’s in-place file analysis solution and how clients can reduce risks and derive insights from their enterprise data. Follow the rest of our file analysis series:

  1. File analysis for ROT reduction
  2. File analysis for corporate insights (This post)
  3. ZL File Analysis and Management

A graduate from Kalamazoo College, Martin Hansknecht serves as a marketing associate for ZL Tech. He gets his Midwestern charm from growing up in the mitten of Michigan, his East Coast work ethic from his time spent in NY and D.C., and his European fashion from years living in England, Germany, and Hungary. Now he is looking forward to absorbing that innovative West Coast mindset!