Spring has officially sprung! For many, this season ushers in a host of rituals embracing the longer days and warmer weather. As I type, people across the country are putting on long white socks to wear under their sandals, planting seeds of their gardens, and opening their windows for the first time in months. My favorite activity, however, is the annual Spring cleaning. All Winter, I have resigned myself to living in my own clutter, but no more! Out comes the bleach, vacuum, and garbage bags as I purge my house of all the dust, papers, and junk I pretended not to notice before.
The rush of having a clean home was intoxicating. I could not stop, so I took this cleaning bender one step further and finally scrubbed my desktop and file shares as well. While I am a fastidious and organized person, there were still countless half-baked, duplicate, old, and useless documents eating away at my limited storage space. In the information management industry, we refer to this as ROT, redundant, outdated, and trivial data that has little to no organizational value.
Since it took me hours to comb through all my documents to sift out the trash from the treasure, I can only imagine how onerous it would be to conduct file cleanups at the enterprise level. While daunting, the energy and costs of living with bloated servers almost always outweigh the price and time it takes to declutter and apply ongoing governance. While storage costs can be concerning, the cons of holding onto ROT extend to overall data functionality and privacy compliance risks as well.
Expanding on functionality, just as hoarding objects in your home makes using the space difficult, so too does having a cluttered data ecosystem. Say you want to find your keys or passport, if your house is filled with papers and knickknacks, it can be incredibly difficult to find the one document or object you need when it is buried beneath mountains of junk. The same is true in the virtual world, if my file share is bloated with duplicate documents and irrelevant files, it can be near impossible to find anything. As a user this can be frustrating, but when it comes to mandated searches for eDiscovery or privacy subject access requests, failure to find documents can prove costly.
On the subject of privacy, when it comes to data regulations what you don’t know can hurt you! Modern privacy regulations mandate organizations manage and remediate personal information across the enterprise. In the past, organizations could get away with only managing official records; however, these regulations now require organizations to find personal identifying information (PII) wherever they reside. The unfortunate reality being that PII often hide in ROT files. The call to strengthen user privacy is only growing as states and countries continue passing new, stricter laws on PII management.
Even knowing the risks associated with ROT, many organizations remain hesitant to delete information as the penalties for wrongful deletion are intimidating. However, there are ways of ensuring all deletion is defensible, such as having lifecycle policies reflect regulatory requirements and creating an audit trail of document actions. If you want to learn more about navigating the file cleanup process in a safe, effective way, feel free to contact a ZL Tech expert for a free consultation.