28 Feb 2023

How reducing the data a company holds and moving it to the cloud can reduce emissions (Guest blog by NetApp)

Author: Matt Watts, Chief Technology Evangelist at NetApp

By 2025 the global “datasphere” is estimated to reach a staggering 180 zettabytes (Statista). If the datasphere continues to grow at the current rate, by 2030 we are likely to exceed a yottabyte (a million trillion megabytes) of data created in a single year.

The shocking revelation however is that over 68% of the data we are storing in data centers across the UK is never used again after it has been created.

For businesses to maximise their chances of success in the new economy, they must develop and embrace a digital presence and cultivate assets with sustainability at the heart of their approach.

It is more important than ever to reduce the data businesses hold in order for organisations to ultimately reduce their carbon emissions meaningfully.

Data minimalism

One way of minimising the data businesses hold in a systematic and effective way is by creating and following a data strategy with data minimalism at the heart of it. By reducing the data a company holds, leaders will be able to cut costs as well as being one step closer to meeting Environmental, Social and Governance targets.  

3 steps to reduce your data  

As data becomes essential to optimise businesses processes, companies need to find ways to create conducive environments for them to unlock their data’s potential. Businesses can focus on the following three areas of your data strategy to minimalize their data storage and overall power usage across all your technology stacks.

First, businesses need to know how much data they have, what the data is and where it is located. Visibility across your data stack is essential on both premises, hybrid cloud and cloud environments. Businesses must utilise effective data management software that works across all their data siloes to understand how much data they can reduce. From this action, businesses often manually remove data that is clearly unnecessary, inactive or duplicated.

Secondly, and once the visibility is attained, businesses can then begin categorising data that is needed for legal processes and what could be removed. A thorough understanding of what is needed and what is not necessary is fundamental in meeting legal governance and sustainability requirements. Banks for example utilise strict categorisation procedures to prioritise which data stacks need extra cyber security protection.

Finally, bringing on board a trusted advisor at this stage might be useful to help provide extra support here. For example, are there ways to become more efficient in where data is being saved? Can some storage locations be consolidated to save costs? Could an organisation move more of their data into the public cloud, and work with one of the hyperscaler providers to improve the environmental impact storing and managing their data is having?

Through this strategy you can ensure that you only store the data you need, cutting surplus costs and reducing your carbon emissions to meet your sustainability targets.  

The upside to downsizing

Implementing data minimalism can reduce your workload for your business, while ensuring data is clean, of a higher quality, and well governed, in order to reduce security and privacy risks, as well as unnecessary power usage that leads to increased CO2 emissions.

The sheer amount of data organisations are producing, collecting, and accessing today means that informal and ad hoc approaches to collecting and managing data is no longer enough. And that’s before you even start to think of the environmental and sustainability impacts – something that is higher on the boardroom agenda, in a world where stakeholders are much more focused on a business’ Environment, Social and Governance credentials. Data strategies are tailor-made and specifically designed to improve data management across a whole organisation, giving departments the support they need to work in alignment with each other, rather than against each other.

Data minimalism may sound counter-intuitive, especially at a time where the value of data is skyrocketing. However, implementing data minimalism can reduce your workload for your business, while ensuring data is clean, of a higher quality, and well governed, in order to reduce security and privacy risks, as well as unnecessary power usage that leads to increased CO2 emissions.

Some sectors have additional mandates to follow when it comes to data. Financial services organisations for example must collect and retain a great deal of historical data as part of reporting requirements. They must put in place the right mix of storage technologies together to support these needs, in a way that is as cost-effective and sustainable as possible.

Shrinking our data footprint for a greener future

Overall, data minimalism is one of the most cost-effective ways we can reduce our emissions and carbon footprint.

With ongoing economic uncertainty and an energy crisis that is gripping the country, now is the ideal time to examine our businesses and remove unnecessary data for us to work harder, smarter, and greener for the future.

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