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Data is the lifeblood of your organization. And, as technologies like AI, edge computing and IoT become more prevalent, there’s more data being created than ever before – but that doesn’t mean it all has to be kept indefinitely.  

The technology industry has made it incredibly easy to store massive amounts of data on-premises or in the cloud. But because it’s just as easy to add more storage capacity, data management has become less robust.

Unused data is expensive to store – and because data storage runs on electricity, it also contributes to unnecessary carbon-dioxide emissions.

Storing only data that has clear value can therefore help you save money and reduce carbon emissions. It also contributes to the efficient implementation of AI and analytics tools trained on that data.

A widespread data problem

According to The Unseen Environmental Cost of Data, a study compiled for NTT and NetApp by Omdia on data and sustainability in organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, more than 70% of respondents believe that over 60% of their corporate data is unused.

Yet, most don’t directly tie the optimization of their data storage to their carbon-emission reduction goals – even though more than 80% of them have policies and incentives in place to do so as part of their broader sustainability programs, and more than 60% agree that IT, data center and cloud infrastructures are key pillars of their sustainability agendas.

We call it their green data-storage blind spot – and we know how to fix it.

Why you need data about your unused data

Organizations first need deeper insight into the possible savings related to data storage across their on-premises and cloud infrastructure, and across all their vendors. Only then can they take action to address the problem.

But our research shows that 41% of organizations are not sure how to improve their data management, and only 35% claim to monitor their data.

“While organizations are gradually becoming aware of the amount of wasted data they store, what’s particularly worrying is that so many haven’t found an effective way to proactively tackle this,” says Matt Watts, Chief Technology Evangelist at NetApp. “At NetApp, we believe that smarter data storage is essential to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.”

This is why NTT and NetApp have developed the Data Waste Assessment, a consultative approach to make our clients aware of the sustainability impact of data storage and get data management back on the agenda.

The assessment comprises a series of workshops with a client to discuss the issues and define the scope of the engagement. We then deploy monitoring tools and use AI to scan, analyze and classify a client’s data – and, on the infrastructure side, we map and classify this data against their storage estate.

What makes unused data build up?

Our assessment helps us get to the root cause of why there’s so much unused data in the organization. For example:

  • Application owners may ask for more storage because they haven’t optimized their applications or have inefficient backup policies.
  • The data may be scattered across multiple clouds, hampering visibility.
  • The organization may lack monitoring or tooling for data management.
  • There may be overly complex data-storage solutions in place that are hard to maintain, resulting in unnecessary costs and inefficiencies.
  • The purpose of keeping the data is not clear, so the data is hoarded “just to be safe”.
  • IT teams may avoid regular data disposal because of the magnitude of the task, the risk of deleting something useful and the effort required to gain organizational agreement on what can be erased.

Our research shows that only 33% of organizations have robust tools to measure the impact of storing data and link the results to their green IT strategy.

Uncovering opportunities for savings, sustainability and (often) security

We report back to the client on the possible savings in costs and carbon-dioxide emissions that we have identified, with guidance on how to implement the right data management controls and governance and link the outcomes to their sustainability ambitions.

And, although security and compliance may not be the primary objectives of our Data Waste Assessment, we often uncover data that shouldn’t have been stored or which has been stored insecurely. We can then also help our clients with a more detailed assessment of their security and compliance.

Book a Data Waste Assessment to take stock of your organization’s data storage and develop a more sustainable strategy.