Are You in the Dark About Your Data?

By: Les Mansour, Senior Director Channels, Asia Pacific & Japan, Cohesity

Everywhere you look in an organisation, data has a role to play in decision making. When the C-suite discusses past performance, current challenges and future strategies, it should be using data to inform both learning and decision making. If that data is flawed, discussions and planning will also be flawed.    

An expensive spider’s web

The C-suite needs top quality, clean, reliable data. This is a lot harder to come by than we might think. Let’s take data silos – those stores of data that are managed and maintained by one part of the organisation for their own use. It is easy, intellectually, to understand why they are a bad idea. 

Silos might have come about through historical accident. Perhaps the leading product development team got a huge investment in creating a data store at some point in the past, as one of the organisation’s’ first cloud-based projects, for example. Later other parts of the organisation got similar investment, and they started up their own data stores. Suddenly it is organisational culture to pay to collect, store and analyse separate data stores with overlapping content. 

So today product development teams, marketing teams and sales teams all have their own way of doing things. You’ve got multiple data stores, with some overlapping and some unique data. The board gets reports from these teams, but they can’t see the lines of connection, because there aren’t any, and they don’t know which data is the most up to date. Guesswork comes into play. This has to be bad for strategic planning. 

Cost, complexity, dark data and compliance

This spider’s web of data stores is also bad for financial control and for backup, archiving and restore systems. This isn’t just about buying separate cloud storage for each silo. There might be duplicate backup software, master and media servers, and deduplication systems. Each silo might buy in a service from a different vendor, which means the organisation is paying for several discrete, self-contained services, and managing several Service Level Agreements. In our experience it’s not unusual to find four or more entirely separate configurations performing backup for different data sources.  

Because the silos are to all intents and purposes independent of each other, there’s no checking of data sets against each other, no de-duping across silos, and no certainty about which parts of which data sets are the most accurate. 

Lurking within these silos there will be data that an organisation doesn’t know it has: ‘dark data’. Gartner defines dark data as the information assets organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes such as data analytics. With up to 80 percent of an organisation’s data being in backup, file services and object storage, it’s just sitting there, undiscovered, and incapable of being used fruitfully to help make better informed decisions.

Dark data contributes to business risk, and not just because the insights it could reveal are hidden.  There are ramifications for compliance such as with GDPR and other privacy and transparency regulations. When the UK’s Information Commissioner can levy fines of €20 million or 4 percent of annual global turnover – whichever is greater – for GDPR infringements, every organisation should do the best it can to ensure compliance.

Considering that firms will have to pay up to 10 per cent of their annual Singapore turnover or up to S$1 million – whichever is greater – for breaches of Singapore’s updated Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), every organisation should do its best to ensure compliance. 

Moving forward, government bodies such as Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia have begun discussions to have their PDPA terms updated in the post-pandemic world.

Getting to the single source of truth

Our research has found that 91 percent of organisations that have moved to the cloud for data storage and backup felt it would help them reduce costs, increase agility and deliver more useful business insights. But 67 percent feel they’ve not been able to take full advantage of the cloud and that’s caused a negative impact on the business. Moreover, 91 percent of those who feel the cloud hasn’t fully delivered on its promise, say that mass data fragmentation is the cause.

We are saddened but not surprised by these findings. When we work with organisations to consolidate their usage of cloud, we can find that they undertake a mass data clean-up exercise as part of the process, eliminate data fragmentation, removing silos, bringing dark data into the light, and rationalising spending on backup service provision. 

Among the outcomes can come improved compliance, reduced spending on a backup, archive and restore system that’s faster and more efficient than previous solutions, and higher quality management data which can deliver to the board that ‘single source of truth’ which comes from clean, up to date, cross-organisation metrics. High-quality cloud backup isn’t just about facilitating top-grade disaster recovery. It really can help a board get away from the perils of bad data, and thus, bad decision-making. Who wouldn’t want that? 

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