The challenges of unstructured data


Most organisations take it for granted that they are managing data consistently and their documents are neatly filed in secure data repositories. The reality is that the majority of data is unstructured, it’s growing at a rate of 65% per year1, and 95% of IT professionals cite the need to manage this unstructured data as a problem for their business2.

Large organisations can literally have thousands of systems and storage facilities within their IT infrastructure. Take a moment to imagine all the software trials you’ve signed up to, the USB keys lying in the bottom of your drawer, the little notes you’ve got stored with passwords, credit card numbers or contact details…

Keeping on top of everything is a real challenge.

In our experience, a typical organisation’s unstructured data contains 42% confidential information, 1% sensitive personal information and 9% personally identifiable information (PII). It poses a real security risk because if you can’t see it, you can’t secure it. It’s why unstructured data is the biggest point of weakness in a business3.

Every 39 seconds a hacker attack occurs, and according to the Ponemon Institute, each lost record containing PII costs a company $1504.

Clearly data breaches are serious, but are they the biggest threat organisations face from unstructured data?

Hefty fines for non-compliance

Once an organisation has suffered a breach, under the GDPR they have 72-hours to report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office. If it’s deemed serious enough to have breached the articles listed within the legislation, a penalty fine will be issued.

Upon analysing the fines handed out under GDPR, there are two key reasons behind 70% of breaches -- failing to have appropriate security in place and storing unsecured data5.

If only these organisations had taken the time to properly understand what was contained within those unstructured datasets, they could have avoided the wraith of the regulator, as well as the resulting negative media attention and reputational damage.

Failing to fulfil contractual obligations and SARs

As well as the legal requirements placed on organisations by the GDPR, they also face the burden of subject access requests (SARs). Upon receiving a request, organisations must respond within a month. But our research suggests that 35% are unable to adequately respond to the SARs they receive, with each one costing an average of £145 to administer6.

But it’s not just regulatory obligations that organisations face.

Contractual exposure is a real issue for companies, as Dave Parker, Global Head of Data Governance, at Arrow Global explains7:

“The regulatory piece may have stabilised, but we still had clients saying, ‘you have this data, what are you doing with it?’ so, we needed to know ongoing what we had, where it was stored and then decide what to do with it.”

Spiralling cloud costs

Cloud is hailed by many to be Nirvana -- as if once you migrate to the cloud all your problems are solved. It’s true, there are many benefits of moving all/part of the IT infrastructure to the cloud, but fail to tackle unstructured data and a nasty surprise awaits.

Cloud costs have surprised many organisations. The average spend is currently 23% over budget, with overall budgets expected to grow by 47% over the next 12-months8.

It’s estimated that over a third (35%) of cloud spend is wasted because organisations simply ‘lift and shift’ all their data rather than take the time to optimise their estate first. IDC estimates that more than 90% of unstructured data is never examined10. Imagine if you knew what was really in your estate -- not only could you govern what’s sensitive, you could use what’s valuable to power the organisation…


Inability to distil valuable insights


The problem most organisations have is gaining visibility of all their data, both structured and unstructured, at scale across the business -- including cloud and on-premise data repositories.

It’s easy enough to find the data held in one data store, particularly when it’s structured. And even if it’s not, most storage today comes with rudimentary data discovery to help you search for bits and pieces. But the sheer volume and complexity of data is a huge and growing challenge for every modern business.

Data is the key to understanding a customer’s wants and needs. When a business can’t identify its data and unlock its value, it’s at a permanent competitive disadvantage.

Our client a global pharmaceutical company, has a data estate that exceeds 100TB. It faces ongoing litigation cases that requires the company to identify IP and prove ownership. As its Global CTO explained11:


“We need to know when assets were developed and by who, and who owns the patent. But with so much data, where do you start? It’s the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’ scenario.”


Google search for the enterprise

Exonar was born from the idea that every organisation faces the same challenge:

  • They don’t know what information they’ve got.
  • They don’t know where it’s stored.
  • They can’t extract value from it.

Unless we address this problem, data becomes a liability and its true value will never be realised. But in simply revealing what’s been lost, forgotten or hidden within the estate, organisations gain the insight to know what remediation actions to take -- whether that’s nothing because appropriate controls are in place, to move data at scale or delete with confidence.

Only once the estate has been ‘spring cleaned’ can you start to distil the data’s valuable insights. For our global pharmaceuticals client, the value it realised was the ability to find that ‘needle in the haystack’:

“When you consider the laser precision that Exonar gives us to discover the data we need, and the peace of mind to delete with confidence, over a 3-4-year period that equates to an ROI of 200%.11


Discover Exonar for yourself  


Let us show you what’s lurking in your unstructured data. We’re running ‘Test Drives’ at the moment using real data from your organisation -- within minutes we’ll help you reveal the hidden risks and waiting opportunities.


Talk to us about a trial…