Data has become critical to all aspects of human life over the course of the past 30 years. It is the engine spurring digital growth and producing new revenue streams. With 163 zettabytes (or 163 trillion gigabytes) by 2025, the datasphere is projected to grow ten-fold over 2016, reaching an unprecedented order of magnitude, according to IDC’s projections.

Alongside the expansion of the data lake increases the dependency on data accuracy and risk of wasting plenty of money when gathering data on autopilot or causing a breach. If not diligently taken care of, Veritas estimates that the avoidable storage and management costs could accumulate to $3.3 trillion by 2020, as publicized in the Global Databerg Report.

Here are five misbeliefs about big data that many organizations cling to. They can convince a firm to invest funds where they shouldn't, or not invest where they need to.

#1: More data delivers greater value

The common assumption that more data automatically leads to greater economic returns is false. In fact, more than half (52 percent) of all data currently stored by organizations is of unknown value and snoozes in the ‘dark’, according to the Veritas report. A third of all data is redundant, obsolete or trivial, and known to be of absolutely no use. Only 15 percent of all stored data is actually considered to be business critical. At the average enterprise, the costs for storing dark data are estimated at a staggering $20.5 million per year.

Unless companies are able to separate and erase useless data by enforcing data governance and life-cycle management, the only thing certain is the more data being amassed, the higher the costs.

#2: Cloud storage is ‘free’

Data offloading into the cloud has become incredibly popular and can make great economic sense — whether it’s about IoT-based business models, E-Mail, collaboration and sharing or CRM, there are use cases in abundance. According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index: Forecast and Methodology (2015–2020), data stored in data centers will quintuple by 2020 and reach 915 exabytes, up 5.3-fold from 171 exabytes in 2015. However, decisions to move data should be made wisely, as there is no such thing as ‘free’ storage.

Cloud providers will either themselves apply a data-centric business model to monetize their efforts, or cross-sell other services to subsidize their ‘free’ storage capacity. Moreover, enterprises must have a profound understanding of their digital assets before transitioning data into the cloud. This typically includes attributes such as content type, age, relevance, etc. Moving dark data into the cloud will be a complete waste of money. Enterprises should also keep the lock-in effect in mind as data is growing exponentially. While it’s not literally a one-way street, transitioning shiploads of data back can at least become a major challenge.

#3: All data is equal

The value of data can vary extensively. Nevertheless, most enterprises tend to classify their data wrongly, under protecting some of their precious digital assets and over-protecting other data sets that are less valuable. Some 51 percent ranked customer personal identifiable data as the first or second most valuable information, as published in Ernst & Young’s Global Information Security Survey.

A mere 11 percent considered intellectual property (IP) rights as the first or second most valuable asset. For some strange reasons, personal information from board members was deemed more valuable than proprietary R&D information, patented IP and non-patented IP, and essentially on the same level as corporate strategic plans.

Here too, an information governance model and leveraging data management software will help gain visibility, classify the data, and extract value.

#4: All users are compliant

While all organizations demand good corporate citizenship from their staff, we unfortunately don’t live in a perfect world. The fact of the matter is that some employees ignore corporate data policies unless they are strictly enforced. With themes such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), the demarcation lines between corporate data and personal data are further blurring.

The Veritas report revealed that 65 percent of all employees utilize unsanctioned sync and share services. While 57 percent store photos, another 57 percent occupy corporate assets with personal ID and legal documents. Some 47 percent store music files, and 43 percent their social media content. A third stores videos, and 26 percent games on corporate infrastructure. While this might be incredibly convenient from a user perspective, enterprises burn tons of money saving, processing, and archiving petabytes of data that are of questionable use for the company.

#5: We’re safe and don’t need to prepare for a data breach

The threat of a data breach is still heavily underestimated, and many organizations don’t prepare a worst-case scenario, which in turn can cause severe damages engulfing millions of dollars. Fact is, as much as 98 percent of organizations encountered a cyber-attack last year, according to Radware’s Global Application & Network Security Report 2016-2017 — with many not even being aware of it. With 31 percent of all attacks directed at small and medium businesses below 250 employees, everyone is a potential target.

As discovered in the Ernst & Young report, 42 percent do not possess a communications strategy or plan for how to handle a data breach. Within the first seven days after an incident, 39 percent say they would make a public announcement. Some 70 percent would notify their regulator and compliance organizations. A mind-blowing 46 percent would not notify customers, even if customer data was exposed; and 56 percent would not notify suppliers, even when supplier data was exposed.

In the digital era, the threat landscape is evolving quickly. Besides putting security concepts and tools in place to prevent a data breach from happening in the first place, equally important is to be properly prepared for how to respond if an incident does occur. Organizations taking cyber threats too lightly jeopardize their right to play.

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