What Is Data Sprawl & How To Prevent Them

What Is Data Sprawl & How To Prevent Them

In today's fast-paced digital world, businesses rely heavily on data for operations and decision-making processes. However, with the proliferation of data across multiple platforms, devices, and applications, organizations struggle to manage and secure their data effectively. This is where data sprawl becomes a significant concern.

This article will explore the concept of data sprawl, its impact on business operations and compliance, and its critical risks. We will also discuss strategies to detect and prevent data sprawl in your organization, including assessing and prioritizing risks, classifying and organizing data, employing the right data security platform, and using efficient data life cycle management. Additionally, we will touch upon the role of data governance in controlling data sprawl.

What is Data Sprawl?

Companies rely squarely on data to make informed decisions, improve customer experience, and gain a competitive advantage in the market. However, the way organizations store, manage, and use their data has undergone significant changes in recent years, leading to the emergence of anew challenge: data sprawl.

Data sprawl refers to the uncontrolled growth of data across an organization's IT environment. It occurs when data is created, stored, and used in different locations, systems, and applications, making it challenging to manage and secure. Data sprawl can happen for various reasons, including the use of multiple cloud providers, the adoption of new technologies, the lack of a centralized data management strategy, and the decentralization of IT resources.

Data sprawl can have severe consequences for businesses, including increased cybersecurity risks, compliance violations, reduced efficiency, and increased costs. As data spreads across multiple systems and applications, it becomes harder to control, leading to a higher risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security incidents. Additionally, data sprawl can lead to compliance violations if sensitive information is stored in locations not compliant with industry regulations. Furthermore, data sprawl can make it harder for organizations to access and analyze their data efficiently, reducing productivity and increasing costs.

Interesting Read: "Cloud Data Security Challenges"

How Data Sprawl affects business operations and compliance

Data sprawl can significantly impact an organization's business operations and compliance. When data is scattered across various systems, applications, and cloud environments, it becomes difficult to manage and control. This can lead to data duplication, incomplete data, inconsistent data, and errors in data reporting. These issues can cause delays in decision-making, hamper business agility, and affect the quality of the organization's products and services.

Data sprawl can also have severe consequences in terms of compliance. Many regulations and laws require organizations to maintain data privacy and security. When data is scattered and uncontrolled, it becomes difficult to track who is accessing it and how it is being used. This can lead to compliance violations, data breaches, and regulatory fines.

Furthermore, data sprawl can result in increased costs for an organization. When data is spread out, it requires more resources to manage, secure, and maintain it. This can lead to higher IT costs and increased risk of security breaches and data loss.

Key risks of Data Sprawl

Data sprawl can expose organizations to risks that seriously affect their operations, reputation, and compliance. Some of the key risks of data sprawl are:

Data breaches:

With data scattered across multiple systems, devices, and cloud services, organizations become vulnerable to cyber-attacks, data theft, and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Compliance violations:

Data sprawl can make it difficult for organizations to maintain compliance with data privacy and security regulations of consequence, such as GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS, leading to hefty fines and legal penalties.

Data loss and corruption:

When data is not adequately managed, backed up, or secured, it can be lost, damaged, or corrupted, resulting in data loss, downtime, and revenue loss.

Inefficient data management:

Data sprawl can cause data duplication, redundancy, and inconsistencies, making it hard for organizations to effectively manage and use their data for analytics, reporting, and decision-making.

Lack of visibility and control:

Without a centralized view of data, it becomes challenging for organizations to know what data they have, where it is located, who has access to it, and how it is being used, leading to blind spots and governance issues.

How to detect data sprawl in your organization

Before implementing any strategy to prevent data sprawl, detecting if it exists in your organization is crucial. Here are a few ways to detect data sprawl:

1. Conduct a data audit: A data audit can help identify where data is stored and how it is being used. Organizations can do this through manual or automated methods.

2. Check for duplicate data: Duplicates can be created when data is copied to different locations or when multiple versions of the same data are saved. Identify and eliminate duplicate data to reduce the risk of data sprawl.

3. Review access permissions: Check who can access different data types and where they are stored. This can help identify unnecessary data storage locations and minimize the risk of data sprawl.

4. Analyze network traffic: Monitor network traffic to identify data transfers and data storage locations. This can help identify areas where data sprawl may be occurring.

5. Monitor storage capacity: Keep track of storage usage and identify any unexpected increases. This can indicate the presence of data sprawl.

Strategies to prevent data sprawl and improve security

Proper data management increases employee productivity, reduces cybersecurity risks, and protects all sensitive data. Organizations can use different practices to manage data sprawl.

A comprehensive Data Access Governance (DAG) must be established that provides all details about how data should be collected, processed, and stored. Further, it should contain information about access controls, risk management, compliance, and more. Ensuring that all relevant people are well informed about DAG is also vital.

Centralize data storage

A significant advantage of storing data at any central repository is that it can be quickly retrieved and increases the productivity of employees. Cloud storage is becoming popular, and most organizations keep data in the cloud. Another advantage of cloud storage is that employees can access data from anywhere and whenever they want. Further, cloud storage is secure, and vendors use different tools and technologies to ensure data safety. Some cloud storage also keeps a copy of the data in other data centers as a backup.

Also Read: "Reduce Cloud Data Storage Costs"

Discover and classify data

Another way to prevent data sprawl is to find out what data you have, where it is located, and who can access it. This helps in the classification of the data as well as gives a picture of how data is managed. Discovering and manually classifying data can be tedious if your organization has a massive amount of data. You can use tools for data discovery and classification. A key advantage of data classification is that it categorizes different data based on risk and sensitivity. This helps prevent data breaches by enabling separate access controls on different data types.

Remove irrelevant and duplicate data

A lot of data that organizations store is either duplicate or redundant. To keep your data repositories clean and lean, removing these data is essential. When you classify the data, you'll know how much duplicate data your organization has, as the duplicate data gets classified under the same tag. Further, when you see it, there are different documents that are not used for a long time and aren't needed for any specific purpose. You can create a redundant folder to store all such types of data. This helps you to retrieve them if it is required in the future.

Use a data security platform

Data security provides different insights that help in managing data sprawl. Insights include where your data is located, who has access to it, and how it is used. These are some insights you can get from a data security platform. In simple terms, a data security platform gives a data-centric view of your organization's security. Using the information a data security platform provides, you can make various decisions to prevent data sprawl and secure your organization's data.

Implement proper data lifecycle management

Planning and making a strategy for complete data lifecycle management helps prevent data sprawl and increases employees' productivity. For example, you can create a folder system so that all the current working data resides in a specific location from which users who all have access to it can swiftly retrieve it as and when required. Similarly, once the work is done and that project is completed, the above data can be transferred to another location that stores all the information about previous projects. This reduces the clutter as well as provides a better user experience. After a specific period, you can remove these data to a redundant or archive folder when the information is not needed anymore. From the archive, it can be retrieved when it is required.

Also Read: "Data Governance Best Practices"

The role of data governance in controlling Data Sprawl

Data governance plays a critical role in controlling data sprawl, which refers to the uncontrolled growth of data within an organization. Data governance ensures that data is managed consistently, securely, and efficiently throughout its lifecycle. It provides guidelines, policies, and procedures for managing data, which helps to reduce the risks associated with data sprawl.

Through data governance, organizations can identify and categorize data, establish retention policies, and ensure data is used appropriately. This helps reduce the likelihood of data sprawl by enabling organizations to manage their data better and ensure that it is used per regulatory and compliance requirements.

Effective data governance also enables organizations to track and monitor data usage, which is critical for detecting and preventing unauthorized access and use of data. This helps to mitigate the risks associated with data sprawl, such as data breaches and non-compliance with regulations.

In addition, data governance helps organizations optimize their data infrastructure by identifying redundant data and ensuring that data is stored most efficiently. This helps to reduce storage costs and improve the performance of data-intensive applications.

How Protecto can help minimize Data Sprawl in your Organization

Data sprawl can pose significant risks to organizations, including compliance violations, data breaches, and loss of customer trust. However, with proper data governance strategies in place, organizations can effectively manage and control their data assets. Organizations can ensure that data is appropriately classified, secured, and managed throughout its lifecycle by implementing a data governance framework. This will help mitigate the risks associated with data sprawl and enable organizations to leverage their data assets more effectively.

With Protecto, your organization can easily create and maintain a robust framework of data governance that helps you minimize data sprawl. Our data security, data privacy, and usage analytics solutions can help you take the proper steps forward while our experts help you craft a tailored data governance roadmap suited to the unique needs and realities of your organization.

With Protecto, you can successfully minimize data sprawl and its associated risks while being able to use your data in more efficient, practical ways. Contact us to schedule a consultation and take that definitive first step towards staying free from data sprawl.

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