Posted by: Patrick Janson, January 31, 2022

Getting Rid of Digital ROT

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The new year finds us thinking about better habits, including digital habits. This January, consider clearing out and preventing the spread of digital ROT. We’ll explain how.


What is ROT data?

The unattractive acronym ROT stands for redundant, obsolete, and trivial data.

  • Redundant data is duplicative data. This can happen when duplicate copies are stored in multiple locations, or someone downloads a file and saves it to their desktop for fear they won’t be able to find it again.
  • Obsolete data is old data, out of date, or simply hasn’t been modified in a very long time—documents from several versions ago, past employee records, contact lists that are ten years old, outdated brand logos, and so on.
  • Trivial data is essentially pointless to keep; it’s data that doesn’t contribute to corporate knowledge, record-keeping, or business insights. Trivial data is digital junk, and getting rid of it would not affect the business.

Similar to its organic counterpart, ROT can have a negative impact. ROT makes it hard (and costly) to protect, find and use the valuable information you have. ROT even poses legal and compliance risks—for example, ROT might contain personally identifiable information (PII), which the California Consumer Privacy Act requires careful tracking and disposal of.


Stopping the spread of ROT 

According to the 2020 Databerg report from enterprise data service provider Veritas, only 19% of data stored by businesses is beneficial. Of the remainder, 53% is dark data of unknown usefulness, and 28% is ROT. That’s a lot of ROT.

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To combat ROT, management and prevention practices are essential. Establish data retention policies and educate employees to prevent hoarding; instead, create a single source of truth where the most up-to-date accurate information lives. A well-understood system classifying, labeling, and storing data can also help identify useful data and prevent ROT from accumulating. Additionally, electronic document management systems can help auto-manage information and mitigate the risk of ROT lingering in hidden corners.

– Patrick Janson

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