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Storing Electronic Information Long Term could be Risky

By Allie Philpin

You could be forgiven for thinking that electronic information can be stored indefinitely; however, it now seems that storing electronic information passively could turn out to be not only wasteful, but also a high risk decision.  So, why do we store information long term without doing anything with it; and how can businesses become more proactive in managing their digital data?

We are a nation of hoarders; well, we are when it comes to storing data electronically, and it’s increasing!  Stored digital data is rising at a daily rate of 8,000 petabytes, doubling every two years, and much of this data doesn’t have any business value; we retain it because ‘you never know when you might need it!’  Data hoarders will argue that a business record from 10 years ago made the difference in yesterday’s litigation case; another will argue that why not store it, with so many cloud options it’s cheap and easy!  But is this affordable approach to information governance that requires little management the right attitude?

Another aspect to why we retain information is that there is little interaction between departments, little coordination, which doesn’t do much for joint governance management!  Successful governance of information doesn’t come down to just one person nor one department; it is a combined effort of co-ordination between IT, records management and legal, audit and compliance, human resources and business units.  Then there’s the challenge of ensuring accountability from the business units and avoiding the “it’s not my job” attitude; that just brings about decision-making that is siloed and risky.

And then there’s the problem that is that many enterprises believe that storing data, any data, long term is not a threat to security, regulatory or legal compliance, nor to their reputation.  So, taking the attitude that “it won’t happen to us” is a common occurrence, with many businesses being spurred into action only when a breach occurs or there’s been a loss of data.

So, what can you do to turn this around?  Well, focusing on the ROI (return on investment) of information governance, i.e. the savings you could make on implementing an information governance policy is a good place to start.  Decrease your data spend; don’t just choose to store data indefinitely, whatever the data is, because all that achieves is higher storage costs, more members of staff to manage the data is required, and there is the additional software and server costs to consider.  Get rid of the information that has no business value, allowing you to redirect your resources towards a business continuity and disaster recovery plan.

A company-wide protocol of disposing of unnecessary data, particularly to keep within a litigation budget, will decrease the volume of information retained that is subject to preservation, collection, review and production.  This will also ensure that potentially relevant information is not modified, overlooked or deleted.

If you don’t want to drown in a sea of electronically-stored data, information governance is critical, but focusing on future potential risks is not an effective way of managing your data.  Focus on the current cost of storing this huge amount of information, and the potential return on investment of implementing an information governance protocol, and you may well find more success.

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