How to Manage Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial Data

When a network contains an excess of redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) data, productivity and desired outcomes can take a hit. The good news is that organizations can significantly reduce the impact of ROT data when they plan properly and invest in the right tools.

What is ROT data?

ROT data is redundant, outdated and trivial content that is stored by an enterprise:

  • Redundant data is duplicate data stored in multiple places within the same system or across multiple systems. Intranet networks often contain a great deal of redundant content.
  • Trivial data is information that does not need to be kept. Specifically, trivial information is content that does not contribute to corporate knowledge, business insight or record-keeping requirements.
  • Obsolete data is information that is incorrect, incomplete or simply no longer in use. It can include outdated data that has been superseded by new information.

Common examples of redundant, trivial and obsolete data include:

  • Unneeded duplicate copies of emails
  • Content that would not be subject to discovery in a lawsuit and that does not need to be retained to meet regulations or legal requirements
  • Old server session cookies
  • Web content that is no longer accurate
  • Documents that have been superseded by new content

Why is ROT a problem?

Why should you spend time and resources getting rid of ROT data? Because it can contribute significantly to information management challenges, including the following:

  • Data security risks — The more data you have in your databases and file servers, the harder it is to protect it. Clearing away the clutter enables you to understand what data you have and prioritize your security efforts.
  • Productivity losses — Employees waste time searching for the right data among all the clutter, or correcting work they’ve already done using obsolete data.
  • Misinformed decisions — Making decisions based on analysis of inaccurate data can lead to poor business outcomes.
  • High storage costs — Veritas Global estimated that as much as 33 percent of the data stored by organizations back in 2016 was redundant, obsolete, or trivial and that another 52 percent was considered “dark” data, the value of which is undetermined. Veritas reported that it will cost organizations around the world $3.3 trillion to manage all that data by the end of 2020. Data management costs correlate directly with the amount of data being stored.
  • Legal risks — Having to sort through ROT data impedes your ability to respond promptly and accurately respond to legal e-discovery
  • Compliance risks — Regulations like GDPR and CCPA require careful tracking and disposal of consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII), as well a privacy policy that discloses how you collect, store and dispose of consumer data

How can organizations manage ROT?

The following steps can help you dramatically reduce the amount of ROT data in your network:

  • Create a workable taxonomy for your data. Work with key stakeholders to establish a uniform set of definitions, labels and groupings, so you can clearly understand what data you have.
  • Establish a policy and a set of best practices for handling ROT data. For example, establish procedures for purging obsolete records and trivial data.
  • Create a single source of truth (SSOT) for each type of information. This will cut down on the confusion associated with versioning. The “right” version should always be the one saved at the SSOT location.

Stop the Spread of ROT

Staying ahead of the spread of ROT data is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Investing in a robust file analysis tool like Netwrix Data Classification ensures accurate data tagging, helps automate critical information management tasks, and facilitates strong information governance based on intelligent data review. As a result, you can:

  • Identify ROT data across your whole IT ecosystem
  • Reduce the risk of security incidents and mitigate the costs of a data breach
  • Streamline legal and regulatory compliance tasks
  • Increase productivity by making data easier to find
  • Improve decision-making with accurate search results
  • Reduce data storage and management costs
Product Evangelist at Netwrix Corporation, writer, and presenter. Ryan specializes in evangelizing cybersecurity and promoting the importance of visibility into IT changes and data access. As an author, Ryan focuses on IT security trends, surveys, and industry insights.