41% of UK data is unused or unwanted

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41% of UK data is unused or unwanted Duncan is an award-winning researcher, with 20 years experience of analysing the technology industry, specialising in cloud computing, edge computing, blockchain, cybersecurity and marketing technology.


Against the backdrop of the climate crisis and increasing energy costs, comes the worrying new findings that a lack of data management accountability in the UK means that two-fifths (41%) of data is being stored for no reason.

Conducted by NetApp, the Data Waste Index surveyed IT leaders in data management roles in the UK and found serious issues in the region’s data management and storage practices.

The enormity of the task

Despite the excess of unused and unwanted data, the research revealed that over a quarter of IT professionals (26%) review and clean up their data estates either once a year, or less. And yet, three-quarters (75%) of IT leaders still consider excess data storage a constant source of stress within their working day.

The reason being that the lack of data clean-up is an organisational, and not just a departmental, problem: just a third of data managers (33%) felt they had the necessary resource needed to remove surplus data. What’s more, half of IT leaders (48%) struggle to keep up with the demand of managing their data estate – and it may be a lack of clear policy that is to blame with 42% of IT departments avoiding removing data for fears of customer backlash.

Environmental headaches

The need for secure, intuitive, and carbon-curbing storage has become a core competitive data centre requirement, but without effective data management, risk to those priorities grows exponentially. Despite the challenges, IT professionals’ commitment to sustainability is beyond doubt: 83% said that their department prioritises sustainability initiatives, while a quarter (25%) noted that reducing their organisation’s carbon footprint was the biggest motivator in streamlining their data estates. Better still, more than a quarter of IT departments (28%) now employ a sustainability lead.

An ongoing problem

Disturbingly, the scale of the data clean-up challenge is only set to increase as almost two-thirds (61%) of IT leaders believe their data estates will grow over the next year. Already the problem is getting out of hand, over a third of IT departments express concerns about having an “overwhelming” amount of data to sift through. Even more concerning is the finding that IT leaders currently believe their data estates need to reduce by nearly half (44%) over the next twelve months in order to make them operationally efficient. 

Matt Watts, chief technology Eevangelist at NetApp, said: “When we make the comparison between data and oil, it is typically to show the tremendous value of both commodities. The metaphor, however, is apt for another less palatable reason:  when not handled with care, data – much like oil – can have a devastating impact on the environment.

“What this research shows is that UK organisations are creating a landfill of data, and as volumes continue to increase it businesses will only pay a higher cost, both in monetary terms and to the environment.

“In 2023 we must target data centres efficiency – not only for the costs savings (which are substantial) but for our environment efforts, sustainability pledges, and commitment to ESG principles. “Crucially, organisations know they need to act. And that they must act soon or else risk the problem becoming overwhelming.”

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