Is It Time to Dump That Data?

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By Elliot King

Elliot King
The cost of computer storage capacity is so low--and it seemingly has always been low compared to other parts of the information infrastructure--that many people tend to save information forever. While it is always dangerous to work from personal experience,
I know that my hard drive currently has a few files from 10 years ago that I will never look at again. I don't get rid of them because I know that the moment I do, I will need it. I have no real rules to guide me.

And while retaining all the information I have ever created or received on my personal computer may be benign, on the corporate level it isn't. First, there is a security risk. If your systems are breached, records that were no longer useful to you will be compromised and the costs of repairing the damage could be significant.

Second, there is the quality risk. Let's say a customer has not done business with you for (I'm just picking a number out of the hat here) 10 years and then comes back for some reason. The chance of creating a duplicate or otherwise incorrect record may be higher than if you just captured fresh information.

Finally, there are efficiency issues. The more outdated, irrelevant and unnecessary data stored in databases, the harder it is to turn good data into actionable information.

A well-thought-out retention policy is a critical, though sometimes ignored, element of a data management program. Sure, information is a company's most strategic asset, but sometimes you just have to know when to let it go.


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