Abandoned Data Clogging Corporate Networks

When an employee leaves an organization their data lives on. Their computer’s hard drive may be wiped, however they leave many footprints scattered about the data center. A very small portion of this content may be useful to existing employees, but the vast majority is abandoned content that has outlived its business value.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, organizations are currently facing a 3.3% turnover rate. Take an example of a 5,000 employee organization; this represents 165 ex-employees annually. If these ex-employees were generating 5GB of unstructured content annually this would represent almost 1TB of abandoned data annually.

However, we know that corporate data is never represented by the single copy created by the user. Corporate data is replicated over and over again over time. Copies are made for backup and archiving. Copies are attached to email and sent to other users for review and consumption. When a single document is created over time this document can easily turn into 10 copies of the same document.

Taking the previous example of 1TB of data abandoned on networks by ex-employees, this number quickly turns into 10TB of annual useless content cluttering the data center. Over 10 years this will explode to 100TB of abandoned data.

Abandoned data is a hidden class of content that is taking up valuable storage capacity and causing long term risk and liability in today’s legal climate. Organizations rarely think about this content and are unaware that they are managing and storing it, often upgrading server capacity annually to continue to make room for this data.

Classification of user content is gaining steam due to the challenges data center face in managing decades of user content. When classified, data owned by ex-employees or abandoned data is something that no longer has a place on the primary network. Understanding this data and taking action on it has been complex, but data classification software can easily integrate with the Active Directory/LDAP environment to find and tag data owned by inactive users or ex-employees.

Once data is classified it can be easily managed according to policy. Legal and compliance would be happy to make disposition decisions about the content and in some cases purge it from the network. Worst case this content should be moved to less expensive storage or offline to recoup the capacity on the primary storage network.