Data Governance Todd Goldman August 8, 2017

Latest data storage breakthrough. A reminder of the need to let go.

Remember 8 tracks and cassettes? It was a grand time—one I look back on fondly. Disco fever. The sienna orange Gremlin X. Magnetic tape.

Well, it’s back. Not disco or that even more horrible car, mind you. I mean, magnetic tape.

A few days ago, I read this article in Gizmodo about how the lab coats at Sony and IBM developed a new kind of tape that can store 25GB of data per square inch. The “ah ha” in all of this is that a spooled kilometer of this tape can hold 330TB of data, requiring a lot less space than what a hard drive currently requires. For companies that have a hard time letting go of their legacy data, the tape could offer a much more affordable alternative for long-term storage.

The first thing the 1970s kid in me did after reading this article was get up on my chair and cry, “Way to get the last laugh, magnetic tape!”

The second thing the 1970s kid in me did was realize he’s actually a 2017 adult who shouldn’t be jumping on chairs. Especially when it’s in excitement over yet another storage innovation that further compounds a major problem plaguing Big Data in the enterprise right now.

Do we really need another breakthrough in storage technologies that allow data hoarding organizations to cast even bigger nets that capture and keep an ever growing flood of data they know nothing about and probably never will?

With storage costs continuing to plummet, organizations may think the cost of hoarding data may not be an issue. But the overall price tag is still very unnecessary and a lot bigger than many organizations realize. But the real potential expense is in the hefty security, compliance, legal, reputation and other money-draining risks that lurk among all that dark, ungoverned data. And thanks to the GDPR governed world multinationals now live in, that risk and potential expense looms larger than ever before.

Of course, helping organizations discover, organize and curate all that potentially dangerous and needlessly expensive data is one of the things we at Waterline Data do. For us, there is a big opportunity here. So why am I grumbling? Because I’m also a data professional, and as such, I like to see organizations managing their data intake and archival in a reasonable way. But that’s not what I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is a lot of what businesses obsessively holding onto data that is either redundant, meaningless, or just too old.

It’s ridiculous. Parameters should be set on what kinds of data should be collected in the first place. Then, what’s allowed to stay should be catalogued and assigned retention periods. When those periods are up, businesses should be dumping that data like butterfly collars and platform shoes ( Elton John excepted). With all assets now tagged, you can move your non-hot data onto your expensive storage (where magnetic tape appears to be preparing a comeback) and eliminate your redundant data altogether. Encrypt what’s left and reap the benefits of putting that governed data to work for your business.

It’s okay to harbor nostalgia for things like Polaroids and, yes, magnetic tape (but not 8-track tape…. that was just a bad idea). But when it comes to your data, sometimes you need to learn to let it go.