How to Conduct a Powerful Data Audit to Reveal Actionable Insights (and Potential Risk) in 4 Steps

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 18, 2021 1:04:51 PM / by Chris Hussey

Do you know what information your organization is sitting on?

If requested, would you be able to find every document associated with an individual in the mandated two-week timeframe?

What file share information would be exposed in a breach?

If your unstructured information is sitting across multiple file shares, outside of compliance,
completely unmanaged, effectively unsearchable, potentially vulnerable, and at a size well
beyond human capacity to properly address — know that you’re not alone.

Every enterprise organization struggles with these issues.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to understand and analyze all your data, and it starts with a data audit.

Why Data Understanding Matters

But hold on, you might ask - Is this really necessary? Surely your company has more important things to prioritize, right?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this stuff is much more valuable than you think. Here are a few reasons why you should conduct a comprehensive data audit sooner rather than later:

Reduce Costs: According to a recent Gartner report, unstructured data accounts for nearly 80% of the data footprint of an organization. Targeting ROT (Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial files) that persists in unstructured repositories can optimize storage and free up significant data center costs.

Improve Security: Sensitive records, PII (Personal Identifiable Information) or IP related documents can be properly migrated and secured. Safeguard and comply with laws around customer information while adhering to legal holds and data quarantines. Human error and unnecessary document exposure can be minimized through Data Loss Prevention tools.

Boost Efficiency: Time wasted looking for documents cost a typical organization 21% in organizational productivity, or $19,732 per information worker per year. Defensibly disposing of ROT and creating a federated index improves search and ensures workers find the information they need, when they need it.


How to Conduct a Data Audit

Evidently, there are very good reasons to complete a data audit of your enterprise data. But how do you actually do one? 

Step 1: Find Out What You Have

An enterprise data audit starts with a simple question: What content and information does your organization even have? Unfortunately, the answer can often be quite a bit more complicated and can be difficult to come up with. Just discovering all your enterprise information is overwhelming, and understandably so. Many large businesses are creating too much content too fast for your people to manually track and control.

Thankfully, today’s technology allows you to avoid this problem and crawl through your enterprise data at machine speeds. Shinydocs' Cognitive Suite leverages Artificial Intelligence and automation to find everything you have across all your repositories.

Step 2: Find Out Where it is

Once you know what you have, you need to understand where that data is located. At this stage, it’s important to take a close look at your entire information infrastructure (This will also be useful for step 4).

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Does some data live in just one location, while other data lives across multiple channels and databases?
  2. Do you duplicate data spread out across multiple file shares?
  3. Is some data siloed in an inaccessible or inconvenient location?

By answering these questions, you should be able to identify what information is located where and who needs access to it. Your goal is to find out where the information lives so you can more easily determine where it should live.

Step 3: Secure and Clean the Data

Now that you understand your data a bit better, we can start to take meaningful action and analyze the value of what you have. Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) data poses real risks and issues to any organization. It's critical to identify ROT files for disposal.

Not only do ROT documents like old emails, meeting minutes, and stale documents bring little value to your company, they can expose your organization to significant risk. These documents contain a wealth of personalized information and intellectual property that is highly valued and actively targeted by hackers. Shinydocs can help you clean your databases and various repositories in a managed, systematic and thoughtful way. We automatically add descriptive metadata tags to valuable content that enhances search and provides users with the information they need, when they need it.

Step 4: Implement Data Quality Processes

Understanding what you have, locating it and determining what is valuable to your organization is an achievement worth celebrating. However, it is key to set up processes to ensure this does not need to happen regularly. This is where data quality processes and procedures come into play.

Talk with your knowledge experts about your goals and lean on their expertise to develop a strategy. Perhaps you may want to create automated workflows that audit, flag or share data in standardized formats. Or maybe it’s important to provide a seamless experience for your end-users with search capabilities behind a firewall or the ability to access their ECM right from Windows Explorer.

Whatever your organization is looking to accomplish, make sure to create and execute a data management strategy that works for you.

metadata search

A Step Closer to Total Data Understanding

A comprehensive data audit isn’t an easy process, but it is crucial in today’s current climate. After all, digital transformation is predicated on complete data understanding across your entire organization.

It is that very mantra that guides everything we do here at Shinydocs. We've performed data audits of multiple petabytes of information for countless organizations.

Our latest report shows you exactly what a typical crawl through various repositories can uncover. It’s a great way to see the kinds of valuable, actionable insights you can get by doing a metadata crawl of your enterprise data.

Click here to download the FREE report.

Chris Hussey

Written by Chris Hussey

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Shinydocs. As a former journalist-turned marketer, Chris is passionate about telling a good story and providing value for organizations all over the world.

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