Approximately 10 years ago, I lived in an apartment just outside of Boston. At the time, the ZIP code for the address of the building in which I lived was 02146. A few years after I moved, the U.S. Postal Service decided to split the area covered by that ZIP code into two parts. The southern section kept the 02146 code, while the northern area – where my former apartment building is – was assigned a new ZIP code: 02446.

This is, perhaps, a simple little story, yet it exposes two issues related to "data decay." For the lack of an official industry definition, data decay refers to an increasing degradation of managed information over time due to lack of proper attention. The first issue is the more commonly understood problem: Presuming that my name and address were in some customer database, as soon as I moved, that information was no longer correct. I have read in the past that the U.S. Postal Service estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the population moves each year, and this alone can account for a large amount of data disintegration.

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