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Cleaning up digital data for the environment and business efficiency

Organizations that wish to declutter on Digital Cleanup Day and maintain a clean and well-organized digital footprint moving forward should start with the biggest nut to crack.

A data center: Network cables plugged into a server. — © Michael Bocchieri/AFP/Getty Images
A data center: Network cables plugged into a server. — © Michael Bocchieri/AFP/Getty Images

The ramifications of digital waste are significant. Servers, for example, release significant volumes of carbon and e-waste can often be toxic; it is not biodegradable and it accumulates in the environment, in the soil, air, water and living things.

With the environmental impact of digital data in mind, Digital Cleanup Day is coming up on March 18, 2023. The event is dedicated to raising awareness of digital waste and the impact upon the environment. There is an aim to encourage individuals, businesses, and government agencies to do their part to declutter their digital footprint.

The Digital Cleanup Day site states that Internet use accounts for 3.7 percent of global carbon emissions, equivalent to all air traffic in the world. This digital pollution contributes to global warming and climate change.

Additionally, as the number of personal devices and data centres grows in order to store, manage, utilise, and protect the world’s data growth, they require more energy to operate, which can put a strain on the power grid and increase energy costs.

Each of these carries negative consequences and digital clutter has an impact on maintaining uptime and availability, ensuring the security of data and infrastructure, and optimizing resource utilization.

In turn, these events have the potential to hurt an organization’s ability to meet business requirements and stay competitive in the industry.

Carl D’Halluin, CTO of Datadobi, and Amit Shaked, CEO and co-founder of Laminar, have told Digital Journal why it is important to be mindful of digital habits and to take steps to reduce digital waste.

D’Halluin explains why a ‘digital clean-up’ makes sense for business: “Digital Cleanup Day is an initiative that encourages individuals and organizations to declutter and organize their digital lives. People are encouraged to clean up their digital devices, including their computers, data storage, smartphones, and tablets.”

In terms of examples, D’Halluin  cites: “This may involve deleting unnecessary files, organizing folders and emails, and/or uninstalling unused apps, unused cloud service subscriptions, and unused user accounts. The day’s goal is to promote better digital hygiene habits and help individuals and organizations become more efficient, productive, and secure in their digital lives. Of course, until recently, digital cleanup for enterprises was much easier said than done.”

Traders are now looking ahead to the releae of US inflation data next week
Traders are now looking ahead to the releae of US inflation data next week – Copyright AFP MOHD RASFAN

Organizations that wish to declutter on Digital Cleanup Day and maintain a clean and well-organized digital footprint moving forward should start with the biggest issue – unstructured data.

According to analyst estimates, 80 to 90 percent of all data is unstructured. This includes unnecessary data copies, outdated data, data belonging to employees no longer with the organization, and expired data backups and archives.

To tackle such a monumental task, users need to seek a data management solution that is vendor-neutral and can handle all types of unstructured datasets, including file and object data, whether they are located on-premises or in the cloud. It must be able to assess, organize and act upon the data.

According to D’Halluin: “Now that digital cleanup can be “easier done than said” with the right solution in hand, organizations can enjoy numerous benefits including optimized storage usage, streamlined data management, reduced risk of data breaches and non-compliance, and increased productivity due to better data accessibility. Moreover, digital cleanup can unlock the value of important data insights, leading to improved business decision-making and innovation opportunities.”

Shaked puts the process of digital clean-up central to good governance, noting “Digital Cleanup serves as an important reminder for IT, data governance and data security teams to start keeping tabs on all of their sensitive data in the cloud. Often data security teams are blind to the location, volume and types of sensitive data that lies in the cloud. Not only can unknown data lead to excess costs and digital waste, it can also introduce significant risk.”

One challenge relates to transparency and Shaked  observes: “Many companies don’t have full visibility into where their sensitive data resides. This unknown or “shadow” data is growing, and is a top concern for 82 percent of data security professionals. Examples of shadow data include database copies in test environments, analytics pipelines, orphaned backups, unlisted embedded databases and more.”

In terms of suggestions, Shaked proposes: “To help reduce carbon footprint and the overall attack surface, organizations must start with complete observability of their data. With new agile and cloud-native tools, enterprises now have the solutions they need to clean up unnecessary data, and to keep up with today’s fast-paced, cloud environment.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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