How To Prevent And Manage Data ROT: Practical Guidelines

How To Prevent And Manage Data ROT: Practical Guidelines

In a data-driven world, managing and safeguarding your organization’s data is critical. One of the challenges that can compromise your data’s integrity is the phenomenon known as “data ROT” – Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial data. In this article, we will explore why Data ROT could be a cause of concern and provide practical guidelines to prevent and manage data ROT effectively.

Why is Data ROT a Problem?

Why should you invest time and money in removing ROT data? Because it can be detrimental to information management:

  • Risks associated with data security: The more information you save in databases and file servers, the more difficult it is to safeguard. You can prioritize your security efforts and know what data you have when you clear the clutter. Besides that, every file that is defensibly deleted is a file that will never end up in the hands of a hacker.
  • Productivity losses: Workers squander time trying to find the relevant information among the chaos or fixing previously completed work using out-of-date information.
  • Misinformed decisions: Poor business outcomes might result from making judgments based on the analysis of erroneous data.
  • Exorbitant storage costs: Veritas Global calculated that in 2020, up to 28 percent of the data kept by enterprises was redundant, obsolete, or trivial, and that an additional 47 percent was categorized as “dark” data, the value of which is undefined. The amount of data being held directly correlates with the cost of data management.
  • Legal dangers: Sorting through ROT data makes it more difficult, and much more expensive, to react to legal e-discovery in a timely and accurate manner.
  • Risks associated with compliance policies: The CCPA and GDPR mandate that personally identifiable information (PII) belonging to customers be tracked and disposed of carefully. You also need to have a privacy policy outlining how you gather, maintain, and delete consumer data.

Regular Data Audits

Data ROT often accumulates over time as new data is created and old data becomes obsolete. Conducting periodic data audits allows you to take a proactive approach to identifying and addressing such problems. These audits involve a comprehensive review of your data repositories to pinpoint duplicate, outdated, or irrelevant files. Implementing automated tools and software can streamline this process, making it less labor-intensive and more accurate. These tools can scan and analyze large volumes of data much faster than manual inspections and generate reports that provide insights into the extent of ROT within your organization’s data landscape.

Data Classification and Tagging

Assigning proper classifications and tags to your data is crucial. Establish a clear taxonomy that defines the importance and relevance of each data element. This will help you prioritize data for retention or disposal, reducing the risk of ROT. Furthermore, data classification assists in data retrieval, ensuring that only relevant information is accessed when needed.

Data classification involves categorizing your data based on its value, sensitivity, relevance to your organization, and legal requirements. For instance, organizations with data subject to the GDPR may have a legal responsibility to delete Sensitive Personal Data of customers as soon as possible, no matter how it impacts their operational logs. By clearly defining attributes of your data, you can determine which data should be retained and which can be safely disposed of.

Tagging data with metadata is another valuable practice. Metadata provides additional context about the data, making it easier to search for and retrieve specific information. For example, tagging files with information about their purpose can help in quickly identifying and managing ROT.

Implement Data Retention Policies

Develop and enforce data retention policies tailored to your organization’s specific needs. These policies define how long different types of data should be retained and when they should be disposed of. Regularly review and update these policies to stay in compliance with changing regulations and evolving business requirements.

Data retention policies are essential for ensuring that data is retained only for as long as it serves a legitimate business purpose. These policies should consider legal and regulatory requirements, industry standards, and the unique needs of your organization. For instance, financial records may need to be retained for several years, while non-critical emails can have a shorter retention period.

Regularly reviewing and updating data retention policies is crucial in a dynamic business environment. New regulations may require adjustments to your policies, and as your organization evolves, your data management needs may also change. Ensure your policies are clear, well-documented, and communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

Automated Data Deletion

To prevent data ROT, consider implementing automated data deletion processes. Once data reaches the end of its retention period, automated scripts or software can safely remove it from your systems. This can be achieved by systematically defining the deletion circumstances for various records categories. In other words, there should be a black-and-white circumstance where the data should be deleted, and stakeholders can debate and negotiate what those circumstances are ahead of time, but once they are established, they should not require further human input. Human involvement, such as with a disposition review, should be avoided wherever possible as they only introduce bottlenecks at best, and critical points of failure at worst. Be sure to record what data is deleted and when, as this information may be required for compliance and auditing purposes.

Data Deduplication

Data deduplication involves identifying and eliminating duplicate data, which is a crucial step in data management. Various data deduplication solutions are available to automatically scan repositories and remove duplicates. Typically, these solutions replace duplicate data with references to the primary copy, known as a “single source of truth” (SSOT). Such solutions are widely used for data backup, either by removing duplicate data from a storage device or filtering duplicates in real-time during data transmission to external storage.

Employee Training and Awareness

Employees are often the first line of defense against data ROT. It is important to provide comprehensive training and raise awareness about data management best practices. Encourage employees to report ROT when they encounter it and promote a culture of data responsibility throughout the organization.

Employee training is vital for ensuring that data management practices are followed consistently across the organization. Training should cover topics such as data classification, retention policies, and the use of data management tools and software.

Rational Governance

Rational Governance, a complete information governance solution, can play a critical role in managing data ROT effectively. It provides a comprehensive solution that enables organizations to gain a clear understanding and effective management of their enterprise data. With its unified interface, it offers an overarching view and control of unstructured data spread across the entire enterprise, streamlining information governance and simplifying the complexity of data management.

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