The Environmental Impact of Storing Dark Data

Amongst all the issues surrounding digital data storage – be it GDPR regulations, information usage or hacking, to name but a few – one that is unlikely to immediately spring to mind is carbon footprint. Yet, according to new research from Veritas Technologies, around 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 will be pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere this year as a result of businesses hoarding so called ‘dark data.’

In total, an average of around 52% of data stored by organizations is dark, which is data that is collected and stored but serves no useful purpose. The security dangers and financial wastage that result from holding vast amounts of this essentially useless information have previously come under the spotlight, but now another repercussion has been highlighted. Veritas argues that the power required to store this unnecessary data is making a significant contribution to climate change.

“Around the world, individuals and companies are working to reduce their carbon footprints, but dark data doesn’t often feature on people’s action lists,” explained Phil Brace, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president, appliances and software-defined storage at Veritas Technologies. “However, dark data is producing more carbon dioxide than 80 different countries do individually, so it’s clear that this is an issue that everyone needs to start taking really seriously. Filtering dark data, and deleting the information that’s not needed, should become a moral imperative for businesses everywhere.”

Failing to throw out things we don’t need is a habit that many people struggle with. Yet whilst, at an individual level, the consequence is usually no more than a cluttered living space, there are clearly much greater implications to hoarding data digitally on this scale. According to analysts, unless this habit is kicked, the volume of dark data stored worldwide will more than quadruple by 2025, to 91ZB, with its accompanying impact on the environment.

It is therefore becoming increasingly vital that businesses use software that can help them identify dark data and then delete it from their systems. This includes understanding how data flows through an organization, gaining visibility into their data and minimizing and placing controls around data. According to Veritas, this will also help companies comply with data privacy legislation such as GDPR.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?