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Dark Data: What It Is and How to Manage It

Dark Data blog, page 2 of 2

How Can Dark Data be Managed?

While you’ll likely never be able completely rid yourself of legacy data, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Your goal shouldn’t be to toss out any¬†information you’re not currently using. Rather, it should be to have a process in place that allows you to manage and organize your legacy data in order to keep the risks and costs associated with dark data at reasonable limit.

Audit and Prune your Database

Do regular audits of your entire databases and make sure you have a process for getting rid of the old, unneeded data. Nail that down as early as possible, and stick to it moving forward. This won’t necessarily make up for the lack of organization of your previous information, but it will surely slow the build-up of new dark data, which will be helpful in the future.

Part of that process should include the pruning of old data. This isn’t necessarily data dumping, but it’s a bit more than mining for hidden gems. The goal here is simply to provide more structure to your legacy data overtime so you can easily decipher what is necessary to hang on to and for how long.

Anytime you can find a new use for old data is a big win – it’s like finding $5 in that pair of pants you hadn’t worn in a month. That’s why, rather than dumping old data, I’d recommend to simply find a manageable format for it. That way, when (or if) you ever actually need that information, you’ll have exactly what you need at arms length.

Find a Suitable Way to Backup Your Data

“But if we’re not getting rid of data, how are we saving storage costs?”

Good question. The answer here comes less from the side of what data you’re storing and more from the how you’re storing it. If your backup and disaster recovery plan involves taking traditional, full backups of your database in order to maintain daily or weekly restore points then you are only making the storage problem worse. This means that you’re constantly duplicating and storing all of that useless, unorganized information over and over again.

More modern backup solutions allow you take a single snapshot (or initial replica) of your database, and then make incremental or differential backups from that point forward. This means that you’re only copying over that dark data one time, and recycling it for each restore point. This may not solve the security issue, but it will certainly allow you to cut back on those painful storage costs.

Store in an Encrypted Form

This should go without saying, but encrypting any and all of your assets – including dark or legacy data – should provide your company with peace of mind and will save a lot of headaches if you are on the wrong side of a breach.

But it’s not only important to encrypt your data as its sitting on your own in-house server, it’s also crucial that strong encryption is used while its being stored offsite or in the cloud, as well as anytime it’ss traveling across your network.

If you set up and stick to a data audit and management process, backup your servers using modern techniques, and encrypt your information as thoroughly as possible, you should be able to quell the majority of risks and costs that are typically associated with dark data.

What other specific types of dark data have you come across at your organization, and what ways have you found to sufficiently manage its cost and risk? Let us know by posting in the comments section.

Ben Austin is senior content marketing manager at Continuum Managed Services.

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