Published: 31 October 2019

Reading time: About 4 minutes

Last week we delved into the question “What is dark data?” in our blog entitled “Are you in the dark when it comes to dark data?”  In this, we explored how it’s the unknown and untapped information, and how organisations are failing to use it for other purposes.

In our latest blog as part of our Dark Data series, we chat with our Principal Solution Strategist, Paul Hudson, about the importance of addressing dark data and what more can be done with this unstructured information.

So Paul, how common is dark data in organisations?

Dark data exists within many organisations. It is the data which falls outside of the net of information governance and that includes things like organisations’ legacy data or data gathered on a daily basis which the organisation is not aware of.

Why is dark data a concern?

Firstly, the benefits of that data are missed – you are retaining data somewhere but there is no known value being extracted from that information. If your business is consuming this data without knowledge, it cannot be protected or valued and the integrity, accuracy and reliability cannot be assured. Then, of course, there’s the potential for that data to contain either sensitive or personal information about people that you are either employing or who are users of your products or services. That is a huge risk, especially in light of GDPR.

Why do you need to address dark data?

If you have data that you do not understand, then it probably contains risk or it contains value. Either way,  you do not have appropriate data governance in place. As a result,  you have not registered that as an information asset. Organisations need to understand where the data is, where it can go to, and who has access to it – they are all key data governance principles you must adhere to.

Ok, so you need to address dark data- but how do you this?

Firstly, you have to understand data and know how it fits into your business. You need to be aware of why you’re storing that information and why it should be considered a data asset. Then you need to make sure that it is not inappropriately stored and that only the relevant people have access to it. Finding data leads to identifying ownership – a critical part of data governance. Only then can you understand how it should be managed and retained. Look at things like the access control list to see who can actually read or change the content. Once you have data owners’ identified, you can understand any policies or regulations which should be applied to that data – so you can ensure that they are enforced.

Finally, what are some of the advantages of addressing dark data?

Well, once you’ve addressed the issues around dark data, it’s no longer dark data! The benefits are obvious. You understand why the data is there, how it is operating, and you know you’ve got regulatory control over that information. If cloud migration is to form part of your digital transformation, and you haven’t addressed dark data before migration, then dependent systems and processes may fail and this will disrupt your business and hinder adoption of new platforms. You’ll be in a better position to get more value out of your data which is understood, cleansed, secure and governed.

To find out more about why dark data is rising, why organisations need to understand dark data, and what more can be done with an organisation’s information, sign up for our webinar, “Are you afraid of the dark? Shine a light on your valuable data” on Tuesday 5th November with our partner risual