Most people have no idea what dark data is, let alone how to go about managing it.
Dark data is the vast majority of digital information that companies collect and store but never use. It can be anything from customer contact information to internal emails. The trouble with dark data is that it takes up storage space and doesn’t provide much value, unless it’s used.
That’s where a dark data management plan comes in.
A good plan will take into account the company’s goals and the resources available to them. It will also identify the best way to collect, store, access, and use dark data. Most importantly, it will lay out a straightforward process for removing data that’s no longer needed.
If your company wants to get a handle on its dark data, it is time to start planning. Here’s everything you need to know about dark data management plans, including how to create one that works for your business.
What is dark data and why does it matter?
Before diving into creating a dark data management plan, it’s essential to understand what dark data is and why it matters. As we mentioned, dark data is the vast majority of digital information companies collect and store but never use.
There are a few reasons why companies end up with so much dark data:
1. Data collection is easier than ever before: In the past, companies had to rely on manual data entry or paper records. Now, myriad digital tools make it easy to collect data. Everything from website cookies to CRM systems can generate mountains of data. This means that companies are collecting more data than ever before–whether they need it or not.
2. Data storage is cheaper than ever before: Along with the rise of digital data comes the decline in the cost of storing it. In the past, companies had to invest in expensive hardware and software to store their data. Now, cloud storage is relatively affordable at a great scale. This means that companies are more likely to keep data they don’t need, just in case they might need it later.
3. The value of data is often unknown: In many cases, the value of data isn’t immediately apparent. It may take months or even years to realize the potential of specific data sets. As a result, companies are hesitant to get rid of data just in case it could be helpful down the road.
Dark data can quickly drain resources without providing any tangible benefits. That’s why it’s so important for companies to have a plan for managing their dark data.
The benefits of a dark data management plan
A dark data management plan can help companies in many ways, including:
1. Reduced storage costs: One of the most significant benefits of a dark data management plan is reduced storage costs. By removing data that’s no longer needed, companies can free up space on their servers and in their data warehouses. This can save a significant amount of money, particularly for companies that are dealing with large data sets.
2. Improved performance: Too much data can slow down systems and make it challenging to access the information you need. By reducing the amount of dark data you’re storing, you can improve the performance of your systems and make them more efficient.
3. Greater insights: In many cases, dark data contains valuable insights that can be used to improve business decisions. By taking the time to analyze your dark data, you may be able to uncover trends or patterns that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
4. Increased compliance: In some cases, dark data may contain sensitive information that needs to be managed by regulations like GDPR. Getting rid of this data can help your company avoid hefty fines and improve its compliance posture.
5. Reduced risk: In some cases, dark data may contain risks that could potentially harm your business. For example, dark data may contain customer information that could be leaked in a data breach. Getting rid of this data can help reduce the risks your business faces.
What is a dark data management plan?
A dark data management plan is a formalized strategy for dealing with the vast amount of digital information that companies collect and store but never use. A dark data management plan aims to help companies reduce their storage costs, improve their performance, and gain insights from their data.
Think of this strategy as similar to spring cleaning for your data. Just as you would declutter your home and eliminate unnecessary items, a dark data management plan helps you do the same with your data.
When developing a dark data management plan, there are a few key elements to keep in mind– and some to avoid.
How to build a dark data management plan
There are four key steps to building a dark data management plan:
1. Determine why dark data matter for your business
First, you must answer the question: why does dark data matter for your business? In other words, what are the specific benefits that you hope to gain from managing your dark data?
For some businesses, the answer may be reducing storage costs. For others, it may be improving performance or gaining insights from their data. It’s important to clearly understand why you’re developing a dark data management plan before you start.
The goals that you set for your dark data management plan will determine the rest of the steps in this process.
2. Identify your dark data
The next step is to identify your dark data. In other words, you need to take inventory of all the data that you’re storing but not using. This can be a daunting task, particularly for companies with large amounts of data.
To make this process easier, you can use data discovery tools to help you identify and categorize your dark data. These tools can help you quickly identify which data is dark and which data is being used.
As you identify your dark data, you should also take note of any data that may be subject to regulations like GDPR. This data will need to be managed differently than other types of dark data.
3. Develop a retention policy
Once you’ve identified your dark data, developing a retention policy is next. This policy will determine how long you keep your dark data and when you delete it.
There are a few factors to consider when developing your retention policy:
The value of the data: Some dark data may be more valuable than others. When setting a retention policy, you should consider the value of the data.
The sensitivity of the data: In some cases, dark data may contain sensitive information. This data will need to be managed differently than other types of dark data.
The costs of storing the data: Storing dark data can be costly. When setting a retention policy, you should consider the costs of storing the data.
The regulatory requirements: In some cases, dark data may be subject to regulatory requirements. This data will need to be managed differently than other types of dark data.
4. Compose a data management plan
The final step is to create a data management plan, outlining each step. This plan will specify how you will manage your data from start to finish.
The data management plan can be viewed as a roadmap for managing your dark data. It should include all the steps you will take to manage your data, from collection to deletion.
When creating your data management plan, you should consider the following factors:
What tools will you use?
How will you store your data?
How will you access your data?
How will you protect your data?
How will you delete your data?
Remember that your data management plan should be tailored to the specific needs of your business. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing dark data.
Avoid these dark data management pitfalls
When developing a dark data management plan, there are a few pitfalls to avoid:
1. Don’t hoard data: Just because you have data doesn’t mean you need to keep it. When setting a retention policy, be sure to consider the value and costs of storing the data.
2. Don’t forget about security: Dark data can be sensitive. Be sure to include security measures in your data management plan.
3. Don’t procrastinate: The longer you wait to develop a dark data management plan, the more data you’ll have to manage. As time passes, the costs of managing your data will increase.
4. Don’t forget about privacy acts: If your dark data is subject to any privacy legislation, be sure to include the appropriate measures in your data management plan.
By avoiding these pitfalls, you can develop a dark data management plan that will help you effectively manage your dark data.
The bottom line
Developing a dark data management plan is essential for any business that wants to effectively manage its dark data. By taking the time to develop a plan, you can ensure that your dark data is managed in a way that is secure, efficient, and compliant with any applicable regulations.
When you can get your dark data under control, you can focus on using it to your advantage. With the right tools and a well-developed plan, you can unlock the value in your dark data and use it to improve your business.
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