‘The Rise of Skywalker’: A Fight Against The Dark Side Of Data

By Nigel Tozer

I was recently asked to present at an event centred around one of the most anticipated movies of the year: “Star Wars – Rise of Skywalker,” opening this week. The Star Wars theme got me thinking about the Force, and it dawned on me that the Force is an awful lot like data. 

Data can be used for good or evil, and those that wield or control it with any semblance of power are very much like a Jedi to the rest of us – they have a mix of natural ability and have spent time nurturing it. Maybe not with Obi Wan or Yoda, but certainly with people that also have a passion for the power of data.

In the movie franchise, the dark side of the Force is appealing because its power appears to come easier to those that embrace it.  It’s not just about how you use data that makes it like the Force – the same applies to how you manage it, too.

Consider this: data just sitting there, latent in your organisation as it inexorably gravitates toward the dark side – a “data dark side” if you like.  But without anyone actively doing anything with it how can data slip, on its own, over to the dark side, you might ask?

There are three simple reasons:

  • The data dark side is easier to embrace – you expend less effort
  • It’s intoxicating – using and keeping all your data forever makes you feel powerful
  • Your corporate “Death Star” wants more data – so you just go along with it (who’s gonna question your very own Darth Vader???)

The thing is that the “data dark side” is built on misconception and, sadly, by a lack of GOOD data. So, as Yoda might say, “Become a data Jedi you must.”

The rise of the ‘data Jedi’

First of all, let’s bust the myth that leaving data copies and unstructured dark data just lying around your hybrid estate is the easier option. Sure, data in most organisations has individuals responsible for slices of it or broader processes, but the business owns everything, which means no one does. That makes it hard for any real decisions to be made about what to do with your data.

This has genuine and undesirable consequences:

  • Increased infrastructure, cloud and disaster recovery costs
  • If an outage occurs, slower recovery means it has a greater impact
  • Meeting recovery SLAs cost more
  • By its nature, dark data can’t be leveraged for business benefit
  • Undue risk from cyber-attacks, regulatory penalties and brand damage

Yoda’s wisdom can help us though, “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” 

The light of knowledge in this case is “good data” – metadata from profiling and indexing. By doing this you can avoid or minimise all of the risks listed above, as well as fixing other issues. First, making all data visible by class, content, owner, location and entity allows you to get a mandate to take action; you can positively demonstrate opportunity and risk. Once you can do that, you can begin to set smart, automated policies to deal with the issues at scale, and in line with data governance best practices.

The Force awakens

To use this “good data” effectively, though, it must be comprehensive. As well as on-premises, dark data resides in multiple clouds and on laptops and SaaS applications such as Office 3651. And don’t forget backups and archives, too.  When you get data visibility to this level, Yoda has more Jedi wisdom for us, “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.”

How exactly does this apply to the data dark side, then?  Well, you will mostly likely find a lot of data that has zero value but a lot of risk, and sensitive data in less than secure places. This is especially true of personal data/PII covered by regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), plus many other similar laws and industry-specific regulations around the world.

You’re also likely to find data being used where it shouldn’t be, which will clearly allow data protection officers, risk officers, chief data officers, compliance officers and others to better do their jobs. That’s not to mention helping with other operational challenges such as the right to erasure or data subject access requests, which a recent survey2 revealed 58 percent of organisations were struggling with. The dark side is strong there, I suspect.

‘Sense, control, alter’ – Activate your inner Jedi

The good news is that you don’t need a lightsaber or years of trials and tribulation to be a Jedi in the data management space. Commvault Activate™ will give you the command of Jedi-like powers with data. Whether you’re looking for governance tools for data reduction, privacy and process automation, or business advantage with data quality, insights or data repurposing without building a new data lake, Commvault can help.

Start your “data Jedi” journey today and learn more about data value by visiting Commvault Activate for more information on data governance and how Commvault can help.

Sadly, neither will make you look as cool as if you had an actual lightsaber, but you know what Yoda would say – “May the Force be with you!”

1 Data sources also include (but are not limited to): Exchange, File Systems, Gmail, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive for Business, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft SQL Server databases, Oracle databases

2 Stats from Computer Weekly, Dec 2019