Is data fragmentation putting businesses at risk?

IT managers believe that fragmentation of corporate data across their IT infrastructure and an emerging “Shadow IT’ network of user devices or consumer cloud services outside their control, is putting their organizations at risk and driving up costs.

New research from Freeform Dynamics shows over 80% of respondents believe effective business decision making is hampered by data availability and inconsistency issues. 83% are concerned about the security of their corporate data as it is increasingly dispersed across their network and outside.

Getting the situation under control is also proving difficult with 93% saying that tracking and managing critical corporate data is now a big challenge, with the associated costs highlighted by 84% as being a further concern.

Key data:

  • 82% of IT managers in UK and US mid-sized organizations see decision making hampered by data availability issues and 77% by data inconsistency.
  • 93% are struggling to control critical corporate data. 88% see keeping up with the growth and demand for data storage as an issue. 84% believe storage costs are running out of control.
  • 83% of respondents see security risks. 38% are already experiencing the issues acutely.
  • 81% are concerned that employees are putting sensitive data onto consumer-grade cloud storage and services.
  • 92% see email as a common means of storing and sharing critical data within corporations. A failure of their email would result in significant costs. 62% say that local offline email stores – for example, PSTs on desktops, are frequently used for storing business information – compounding the risk.

Information-related requirements and expectations continue to rise – access to accurate information matters and it is vital to protect critical data. The majority interviewed report an increasing emphasis on better access to data, exploitation of information for decision-making, security and the ability to share critical data without losing control.

Data fragmentation makes it harder to exploit information and creates corporate risk – outside IT-managed systems, so-called “Shadow IT’ means a significant amount of data is now under the control of departments and workgroups, as well as stored and distributed by individual users through PCs, mobile devices (including personal equipment), and consumer cloud services. Shadow IT fragments data further, creates conflicting versions of information, increases the risk of data leakage or loss, and introduces systemic risk into the wider organization.

Data fragmentation increases cost and ongoing management overhead – this translates directly to wasted storage capacity due to repeated over-provisioning, multiple copies of data driving up storage volumes and costs, and a significant amount of additional overhead to manage the complexity. Over 80% of respondents recognize the problem or the danger of storage costs running out of control.

Cloud storage is part of both the problem and the solution – most respondents recognize that the uncontrolled use of public cloud services is aggravating data fragmentation challenges and risks. This issue matched their concern about the impact of BYOD. However, many also believe that a managed adoption of cloud storage and archives is a good way of achieving consolidation without sacrificing the pervasive access and convenience craved by users.

A small number of organizations represent best practice for effective, safe and efficient use of business information – 39 best practice or ‘elite’ performers in the study (13% of the overall sample) provide valuable insights into how best to deal with the challenges. They highlight the importance of knowing your data and defining clear policies around the storage, retention and protection by information type. This in turn allows investment in technology, services and processes to be prioritized objectively. They also put a strong emphasis on exploiting cloud options proactively, rather than just reacting to problems.

Dale Vile, Research Director, Freeform Dynamics commented: “IT staff are finding it extremely hard to manage and protect corporate data vital to their business as it fragments across their own infrastructure and the so-called “Shadow IT’ network. Managing the complexity and the storage overhead is expensive, and protecting the data is a security and business-continuity risk. Despite broad acknowledgement of these issues, only a handful of our respondents appear to be in proper control.”

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