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07. July 2021

Is Your Ignored "Dark Data" Actually Holding Valuable Insights?

Dark data in your organization won't contribute to your analytics and could be the key to unlocking the true state of your enterprise.

Data has the potential to drive your decisions and lead you to a more profitable future. However, your insights could be leading you down the wrong path. The quality of your data analytics is directly dependent on the quality of the data you feed into your BI tools. Dark data in your organization won't contribute to your analytics and could be the key to unlocking the true state of your enterprise. Fortunately, it can be found with a data assessment.

Understanding Dark Data

What do we mean when we label data as dark? This is any data in your organization that is either untouched or unknown. Like an item lurking in a dark corner of a closet, this data goes unnoticed and is never accessed. However, it might be useful in the right circumstances. Knowing what this data contains is crucial.

Most people assume that if data hasn't been touched in a long time that it's for a good reason. Maybe the data was flawed, or the project was abandoned. Perhaps it just wasn't that useful and was left to rot on your servers. Although common sense tells us that this is a logical conclusion, expert data researchers reveal that there's much more to this hidden data.

The Extent of the Problem

A professor at Carnegie Mellon University reported that 90% of enterprise data has gone dark. While some of that data might be useless and bound for the recycle bin, 90% is far too much for it all to be garbage data.

Other estimates are more conservative, but most agree that at least half of your data can be classified as dark. How does so much of your data end up this way?

Why Data Goes Dark

Darkness descends on your files for a variety of reasons. The most common is that these files were completely unknown to your organization in the first place. For instance, programs create temporary files that don't get deleted. Auto-saves and automated backups comprise a significant portion of dark files, as these are rarely touched and quickly forgotten about.

Other causes include employee changes. If an employee had their own folder on your server, it likely stays there well after the employee's departure. Few people will have access to this data, and it'll probably go dark after the worker has cleaned out their desk. Abandoned projects or files that were supposed to be used in a project but were later discarded comprise a significant portion of your dark files.

Still more files are considered dark because they can't be read or detected by your existing search tools. Unstructured data is particularly difficult to find without the right type of data classification platform.

Potentially Missed Insights

All of this information hiding in the dark means that you don't know your data. You don't have a real grasp on how much data your organization possesses, or even what that data contains. That can lead to missed insights when you try to analyze your data with BI tools. After all, what comes out of these programs depends on the quality of the information put in.

Some of these dark files may contain valuable information about your internal processes, which you could use to improve your practices and become more productive. Others may contain information about customers that you could use to better your customer service. Worse yet, imagine there's a dark file that contains more up-to-date information or more accurate information than the one you're feeding into your BI tools. You could be making decisions based on false pretenses.

The Solution: A Data Assessment

You cannot fully know your data unless you shine some light on the dark areas of your organization. A data audit or data assessment can do exactly that. When you get an assessment of your data, intelligent search tools will scan your entire file system and explore even the deepest crevasses of your company. A powerful platform like Aparavi can even read the data in unstructured files and give you information about what these files contain.

With that information, you can then decide what to do with your dark files. Whether that's deleting them or moving them into amore useful location is up to you. Much like using a metal detector at the beach, you're likely to find plenty of junk. But there will also be some buried treasure in the mix that you could use to improve your organization. Ask Aparavi for a data audit today to find out more.