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Are You Hoarding Your Data?

Are you a hoarder? Do you have a large collection of CDs that you never listen to? A vast number of books sitting on the shelf? Perhaps you collect endless figurines, convinced that they’ll be worth something one day?

It’s very easy to quickly become a hoarder. These things can pile up around you, become part of your daily view, even though you’re not getting any value from it. The idea of hoarding has been brought back into the limelight with Marie Kondo’s television show, designed at decluttering people’s homes with a simple question: does this bring you joy? If the answer is no, it gets thrown out.

Getting rid of unnecessary stuff is freeing. You physically get more space. Things are easier to find. You can keep track of what you have more easily.

All of this applies to data too. New technologies like big data and artificial intelligence have caused many organisations to hoard their data, collecting everything they can in the hopes that one day they’ll be able to glean knowledge from it, discover an innovation, or gain a boost over a competitor.

This is all well and true. These things can be gained from data. Techniques have improved over the years when it comes to analysing unstructured data. It’s also easier than ever to buy huge amounts of storage and computing power necessary for these tasks.

However, just because something is possible it doesn’t mean that you should do it. There are disadvantages to hoarding data.

First, consider legal regulations and security. The introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forced many businesses to reassess how they process and store personal data. Users are now within their rights to request a full report on what data you hold on them and to receive it in a timely manner. Personally identifiable data needs to be physically stored in the right location and be easily accessible. But importantly, storing personal data for an unspecified reason will not fly with GDPR – you need to have a clear purpose for having it.

Second, storing masses of data, especially if it’s personal, makes your business a prime target for cybercrime. The more data you store, the bigger the target on your back. This comes with financial and reputational damage should the data fall into the wrong hands – contractual breaches, regulatory fines, lawsuits, and more.

Third, it’s incredibly inefficient to collect data just because you might be able to do something with it down the line. You have to pay for the storage, its upkeep, architecture around it like logging systems, and more, all of which only increase by the gigabyte.

You need to decide upfront what insight you want from your data. Don’t think you’ll figure it out down the line, when the data has become unwieldy. Spend the time and money now to decide what you what to gleam from your data and design your systems in order to capture those specific things. If you don’t, you’ll be left with a mountain of data and a huge headache as you try to sort it to find what you need.


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