In our four-part blog series, BIS is examining the phenomenon known as “the Digital Dark Age.”
In Part I, we defined and gave readers an overview of what the Digital Dark Age is and how our rapidly expanding world of information and creativity is driving us closer to this Digital Dark Age.
In Part II, we take a look at ways the Digital Dark Age could affect businesses (or even households) if they fail to properly prepare for ways to unlock and bring their dark data to life.
There are ways to avoid “sinking” into the Digital Dark Age, but it requires proper planning and an understanding of the platforms that can help.
WAYS THE DIGITAL DARK AGE
COULD AFFECT BUSINESS
You’ve probably just reached a stage where you’re comfortable with your IT infrastructure. Your business has been part of the explosion in ‘Big Data’, and enjoyed the constant advances in operating system software, applications and cloud computing. Humanity has never been as technologically advanced as we are right now, and businesses around the world are benefiting as a result. All progress comes at a cost, and the perceived expense of the ‘Big Data’ age is that a Digital Dark Age is lurking right over a binary horizon.
We explained in part I of our series what the Digital Dark Age is, but you might not realize that there are ramifications from this for your business right now. As we speak. The coming Digital Dark Age will be the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria burning down – millions of times over. But will it really have an impact on your business, or is it all just pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo?
Well, the truth is that your employees have already experienced the first hint of the coming problems. When is the last time you heard an employee or colleague complain that they weren’t able to open a presentation, spreadsheet, text document, because it was in the wrong format; or they couldn’t access old emails on a retired platform?
There’s an unknown amount of data currently stored on different types of data disks that are no longer readable except with specialized equipment.
This is an inconvenience, at best, for most people, but what happens 10 or 20 years from now when the software to open those documents or the ability to get at and into an older server no longer exists? That’s what Dark Data is – all your data stored in places, files and formats you simply cannot access.
In a real-life situation, I saw this happening with my previous employer. Entrusted with the produce and performance records of millions of pedigreed horses, in the 1990s when the organization upgraded from one platform to another, they were only able to go back so far into the organization’s history to obtain records on horses and humans.
While getting “archival” data in some cases was possible, the more that time and technology marched on, the more difficult (or impossible) it became to obtain that historical information.
In the early 20-teens, the organization began a new upgrade only to run into a new set of difficulties as it related to the valuable information they had stored on an old AS400…or on disk storage platforms that were no longer readable.
Mentally take a look around your business and imagine what it might be like to lose access to 50% – 75% of the digital information you have stored.
What would that look like for your bottom line?
The rate at which new records were being hurled at the organization on horses, humans and horse-human combinations was almost becoming impossible to keep up with and there is a very real concern that they are sitting on untold quantities of dark data.
Another major challenge would be finding a way to read data from older types of disks, such as 3.5-inch floppy disks, or the even more antiquated 8-inch disks. You might find yourself chuckling at the thought of any business relying on floppy disks as storage, but it can and does happen. A number of sizeable colleges and universities have only recently made the move away from Iomega Zip Drives.
They were forced to source replacement media online – no supplier stocked them. There’s an unknown amount of data currently stored on different types of data disks that are no longer readable except with specialized equipment.
Now, mentally take a look around your business and imagine what it might be like to lose access to 50% – 75% of the digital information you have stored. What would that look like for your bottom line, or your customer/client interactions? Your business would be exposed to risk in a number of ways:
- Your business would be unable to facilitate any legal requests for archived customer records, especially after the age of ‘Big Data’
- The potential loss of all email stored in archives, or elsewhere
- The risk of losing important legal documentation, either for your business, or your customers
- Guarding your legacy data against security breaches would be impossible, exposing your customers to increased levels of risk
- Employee downtime as a result of a growing inability to access specific types of files
- Expensive reverse engineering of software to read the legacy data
- The biggest risk to your business will come in the form of reputational damage and/or serious financial penalties
The above is just a sampling of the potential issues your business will face in the coming Digital Dark Age, unless you are proactive in dealing with this problem right now. There is a move to standardize data in such a way that future generations will be able to read, search, and use it. And while nothing has been “formally” adopted yet, proactive companies recognize what that format is and are learning about the software platforms that can migrate data from one platform to another and from one file format to a universally accepted one for access, search and use…well into the Digital Renaissance.
We’ll talk about that, and more, in our next “Digital Dark Ages,” blog post.
For a PDF version of this blog entry, please click here.