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Dark Data – Data that no one knows about anymore

July 21st, 2021 | by
Eisberg von oben. Unter der Oberfläche liegt der Großteil des Eisberges verborgen.

There is more hidden beneath the surface than we are actually aware of. This applies not only to icebergs, but also to stored data. (Photo: Unsplash)

“Keeping order is not difficult. Cleaning up, on the other hand, is very difficult.” That’s kind of the saying, isn’t it? No matter how you spin the proverb, this principle applies not only to children’s rooms and closets, it also applies to our digital memories, and many people are not yet aware of this. Just because we can’t touch digitized data doesn’t mean it doesn’t waste space or energy. In Germany, around 66 percent of the data held is “dark” and lies below the surface of users’ consciousness. Read this article to find out what this is all about.

Data Hoarding

According to the report „The Databerg Report: See what Others Don’t“ published in the spring by storage experts at Veritas, a large amount of stored data in companies is neither classified nor usable. They show that hoarding data not only entails considerable costs, but also IT risks as well as significant burdens on the environment. The report prominently compares an organization’s data inventory to an iceberg, the majority of which lies invisible beneath the surface of the water: According to the Veritas survey, on average only 14 percent of the stored data is relevant to the business. For another third, it is at least known what the data is. About half of all stored data is “dark” in the meaning that no one knows anymore what data it is, whether it is (still) important or perhaps contains forgotten treasures. We are familiar with this phenomenon: once we look into the photo albums of our smartphones, we realize that we actually only want to keep the last selfie. The rest, where we look funny or have our eyes closed, we could delete – but we usually don’t.

Mountains of Data, Dark Data and CO2 Emissions

Smartphone users know it: storage costs – regardless of whether it’s in the cloud or on the device itself: the more there is, the more expensive it becomes. This also applies to the data of companies, because the volumes of data to be stored are growing exponentially. In addition to the high price of storage space, the masses of data also have an impact on IT Security and the environment. Storing and maintaining mountains of data requires a lot of resources. For this reason and on the occasion of World Earth Day, the article on Heise.de also motivates people to deleting in order to reduce CO2 emissions and costs. In times when we are more conscious about (plastic) waste and other things, we should also think about our hoarded data. The numerical conditions at a university are certainly different from those in industry, which were illuminated by Veritas, but especially with regard to projects such as the archive migration or data backup.NRW, now is (once again) a good time to go down into the “data basement” and see which data could perhaps be deleted in the course of a clean-up campaign. It is clear that the clean-up itself is also associated with effort – a detailed search for the last snippets does not make sense. But perhaps in this way a few “piles of data” that no one has looked into for a long time can be left out of the next migration.

Responsible for the content of this article are Thomas Eifert and Nicole Filla.

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