The digital universe is vast and ever expanding at an incredible rate. Market intelligence firm IDC’s 2011 Digital Universe study found that the amount of information created and replicated in 2011 exceeded 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes). That’s a lot of data. And more importantly, companies are liable for 80 percent of this information at some point in its digital life.
When it comes down to it, both the legal and IT departments need to do something about this gargantuan amount of data. Most companies have records management policies in place to handle information critical to a company’s business and interests, as well as a corresponding set of records retention schedules that identify record categories, regulatory requirements and the period of time for which they need to be kept before being destroyed.
A large part of the data dragging companies down is “unmanaged information,” which essentially is any information—be it paper or ESI—that is not actively being managed pursuant to a records management policy. Unmanaged information can be anything a person can create and save on his computer. Most of this unmanaged information exists in email, shared-use repositories and any other place where someone stores information. And because people think data storage is cheap, they never delete anything, and it piles up.
Beyond the costs are the operational risks to storing so much data. Companies can become mired in a situation in which it’s difficult to find the most up-to-date or most-relevant information, which can seriously hinder business operations. There’s also the risk of getting incorrect or inaccurate data.
There also are regulatory risks. Companies that have data pertaining to an inquiry can be levied fines and adverse action findings if they don’t produce information expediently. This can be especially painful for companies in highly regulated industries because when litigation or an inquiry arises, there’s more useless data to sift through and it’s harder to quickly understand the facts.