• Data sprawl increases the likelihood of breaches and security incidents, as sensitive information may be scattered across various locations with varying levels of protection.
  • Data sprawl often results from the sheer volume of data, much of which is redundant, duplicated, and useless.

The present data-driven age witnesses dynamic information flow from every corner of the digital world. Such an entangled data web poses a management challenge to organizations worldwide, called data sprawl.

It’s a term that may not be as familiar as big data analytics, but its impact on businesses is substantial. It is an uncontrolled data growth across an organization, leading to scattered information repositories, security risks, compliance issues, and increased costs. We’ll sequentially walk through the causes, challenges, and managing solutions.

What is Data Sprawl?

It refers to the unmitigated and often chaotic data expansion. It occurs when data is created, stored, and managed in a decentralized and disorganized manner, leading to scattering across various storage locations, systems, and platforms, creating data storage and management challenges.

This can include data residing in on-premises servers, cloud storage, individual employee devices, third-party applications, and more.

With concept briefing, let’s delve into its underlying causes, highlighting why organizations grapple with uncontrolled growth and data dispersion.

What Causes Data Sprawl?

It is primarily caused by a combination of factors, including the rapid proliferation of an organization’s digital assets, the growing number of data-generating devices and applications, the absence of clear data management policies, and the decentralization of data storage. As organizations and individuals generate data at an unprecedented rate, the lack of effective governance and oversight leads to data scatter across various platforms, cloud services, and storage locations, featuring a data sprawl example.

Employees often create and store data to suit their immediate needs, contributing to uncontrolled expansion. Additionally, adopting on-premises storage with cloud services and mobile devices further exacerbates data sprawl causes, making it challenging to track, secure, and manage digital information.

The causes stemming from data proliferation and decentralized storage pave the way for understanding further consequences that need to be addressed.

Risks Posed by Data Sprawl

It increases the likelihood of costly data breaches and security incidents, as sensitive information may be placed across various locations with varying levels of protection.

Secondly, compliance with data governance regulations and standards becomes challenging, potentially resulting in legal and financial penalties. Besides, sprawling hampers productivity, as finding and accessing data becomes time-consuming and inefficient. Speaking of data storage sprawl, it inflates costs due to redundant data storage solutions.

Overall, the proliferated data undermines data integrity, security, and organizational efficiency, making it crucial for businesses for integrating data management strategies to mitigate these hazards.

Comprehending the risks is essential, but knowing how to combat and mitigate the data infrastructure sprawl is equally crucial. The practical strategies and proven practices featured further help businesses establish firm control over essential data.

How to Manage Data Sprawl?

  • Adopt Best Data Governance Practices and Policies

To effectively manage uncontrolled digital scattering, it’s essential to track the origins and locations of your data. Implement clear policies governing data collection, storage, management, and access across all sources. Ensure that employees review and understand these policies during onboarding to facilitate data sprawl coordination better.

  • Consolidating Data Storage Management

Opt for unified data storage management systems that seamlessly handle on-premises, hybrid, and cloud storage rather than going for individual storage destinations. However, data sprawl solutions involve addressing data security and privacy challenges during this process.

  • Inventory and Data Mapping

Perform a thorough audit of all data assets within the organization. Determine the data’s location, ownership, access permissions, and how it moves among systems. This mapping provides insight into the data protection environment, making it a powerful method to spot potential data sprawl zones.

  • Data Segmentation

Categorize the data according to its sensitivity, significance to the organization, and compliance obligations. Apply suitable security measures, access authorizations, and retention guidelines based on these categories. Initially, prioritize meeting the challenges of sensitive data to reduce sprawl.

  • Discard Duplicate Data

Data sprawling often results from the sheer volume of data, much of which is redundant or duplicated and useless. Utilize data deduplication tools to efficiently trim unnecessary or duplicate data, reducing data dissipation and assisting in data sprawl analysis.

  • Adopt Enterprise Search and Indexing

Consider a cloud-based document management system (DMS) for advanced document capture and search capabilities. It utilizes optical character recognition (OCR) to extract data from scanned documents and electronic files, indexing them for quick keyword searches.

With this system, you can effortlessly retrieve invoices or other documents by entering minimal information like the vendor’s name and creation date, avoiding the sprawling of index data.

  • Software Applications Integration

Integrating software dissolves enterprise data silos among departments and branches. For example, combining DMS, CRM, and accounting software offers complete operational visibility and harnesses your company’s collective intelligence for informed decision-making.

  • Tool’s Access to Employees

This holds especially true for organizations embracing remote work and BYOD setups. Properly train your staff for remote work, as it introduces unique security risks compared to office environments. Additionally, supply essential software for comprehensive ransomware protection to bolster data security.

Implement strong access management policies for taming data sprawl and preventing leaks and mishandling. The best approach is to grant employees only the necessary access for their job efficiency.

The Takeaway

Data sprawl is a growing challenge organizations must tackle smartly in the increasingly data-oriented world. Fueled by the explosion of data sources and decentralized storage solutions, data disintegration can lead to security vulnerabilities, regulatory non-compliance, increased costs, and operational inefficiencies.

However, with the right strategies, including data inventory, use cases of data governance, consolidation, and employee training, businesses can regain control over their data and harness its full potential while mitigating the associated risks. In doing so, they can ensure that data remains a valuable asset rather than an unmanageable liability in their digital journey.

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