‘Dark data’ is polluting the environment – and the issue is only set to get worse

More than half (52%) of all business data exists in a dormant and unused state and the resources expended in storing this information could have an enormous impact on the environment.

According to data management firm Veritas Technologies, the energy used to store ‘dark’ data will see 5.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere this year alone – the equivalent of driving a car around the earth 575,000 times over.

The company also expects the issue to be compounded by a rapid increase in data production over the next few years, which will drive a proportionate rise in the volume of dark data in storage.

Dark data

Sitting dormant on servers and made up primarily of unnecessary duplicates, this unclassified data leaks both resources and value. Those responsible for its management are unaware of its content – and in some cases even its existence.

In theory, businesses are highly incentivised to tackle the problem, which drives unnecessary expenditure as well as emissions, and could also land companies in hot water with data protection watchdogs.

But the problem is only set to become more acute, with analyst firm IDC predicting the volume of data stored worldwide will grow to 175ZB by 2025, which equates to over 91ZB of dark data – over four times the volume in circulation today.

Veritas believes businesses have a responsibility to ensure the issue does not escalate to this extreme point.

“Around the world, individuals and companies are working to reduce their carbon footprints, but dark data doesn’t often feature on action lists,” said Phil Brace, Chief Sustainability Officer at Veritas.

“However, dark data is producing more carbon dioxide than 80 different countries do individually, so it’s clear this is an issue everyone needs to start taking really seriously. Filtering dark data, and deleting the information that’s not needed, should become a moral imperative for businesses everywhere,” he added.

To help businesses tackle the dark dark problem, Veritas has defined a set of best practices. It begins with a thorough audit of data held in storage, who has access to it and how long it is retained.

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