Keeping All Data Is No Longer an Option


The culture of information technology is to store everything because you never know what might be important in the future. That was never a wise strategy.

Data production is growing at around 25% per year. Humans produced about 60 zettabytes of data in 2020, and Statista estimates that over 2,000 zettabytes of data will be produced by 2035. This is a wholly unsustainable growth rate, and it will have cataclysmic impacts on the environment if it is not radically reduced.

The culture of information technology is to store everything because you never know what might be important in the future. That was never a wise strategy. However, IT departments and CIOs could get away with it when the quantities of data were relatively low, and the storage costs were equally low. However, data storage costs can now be eating up 30% of an IT department’s budget.

Data Storage and Data Creation: What Should You Do?

There are two challenges here. What to store and what not to create in the first place. According to Bob Clark, director of archives at the US Rockefeller Archive Center, the rule of thumb among professional archivists is that at most 5% of stuff is worth saving. My experience over almost 30 years of working with data and content is that 90% of data in practically any environment can be easily deleted, and things will work better.

Someone in the organization needs to start actually managing data. Right now, too many IT departments are behaving like a crude warehouse, or in reality more like a data landfill. IT sees its job as adding more space to dump data. It’s not asking the crucial questions:

  • Why are we storing this?
  • Why are we creating it in the first place?

When new IT systems are installed, often the old systems don’t get properly decommissioned and all the data — regardless of quality — gets migrated to the new system. “They’re not performing an overall analysis of why we have got that particular application and its physical hardware,” data center expert John Booth told me. “Why are we moving something that’s already zombie into the cloud? A lot of IT departments treat every single application that they have as mission critical, when actually it certainly isn’t.”



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