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Mobility and Cloud Computing Are Driving Information Sprawl

Created: 12 Nov 2012
Dean Gonsowski's picture
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Symantec’s first State of Information report examined how organizations are dealing with information today, in light of significant changes in the data center. Symantec’s Digital Information Index sheds light on where information is being stored today, as well as some of the challenges that businesses are dealing with as a result of this transition in the way we store and access our information.

Information is moving from traditional storage in data centers to devices outside of the corporate firewall. This new category of unorganized, duplicative information is referred to as “information sprawl.” Symantec’s Digital Information Index provides a barometer for information sprawl in different areas of the world. The Index shows that in certain growing markets, including India and China, information sprawl is significant, while in other areas, such as France and Japan, it is more restrained. 

Awareness of information sprawl is important because of the wide-ranging and often negative effects it can have businesses. In fact, information sprawl was identified as the culprit in more than one-quarter of survey responses, as a “significant factor” in information mishaps. These mishaps include problems such as the exposure of confidential information through the loss or theft of a mobile device (which was experienced by one-third of businesses surveyed), as well as having problems just finding the information they need because of rampant disorganization. Businesses are also inefficiently taking advantage of the storage they do have, experiencing low storage utilization both inside and outside the firewall.

Information Sprawl

Among the factors driving information sprawl, mobility (including BYOD) and the cloud stand out above all others. The use of mobile devices for business has dramatically increased the amount of information being stored and accessed on smartphones and tablets. Businesses are enabling more access of information on these devices, including those owned by employees. Overall, 14 percent of business information is now stored on these mobile devices globally – 14 percent for enterprises and 11 percent for SMBs. The number is far higher in some areas – in India it is 62 percent, for example, and in Australia and New Zealand it is 46 percent. These mobile devices are also affecting the way we access our information – 28 percent of business information access now happens on mobile devices (31 percent for enterprises; 25 percent for SMBs), meaning that even the information that still resides behind the firewall is exposed to risk as it is transmitted.

Cloud computing is providing organizations with low-cost applications and storage, making it easier to manage the growing amount of information. But, it’s also resulting in even more information being stored beyond the boundaries of the organization, out in the wild. Between private and public cloud deployments, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of business information is now stored in the cloud. This is higher in Indonesia (45 percent), China (39 percent), and Vietnam (34 percent). Combined with smartphones, tablets and laptops, this means that almost 50 percent of all business information is stored outside the firewall.

Information Protection

To minimize the effects of information sprawl within an organization, Symantec recommends the following best practices:

  • Focus on the information, not the device or data center: With BYOD and cloud, information is no longer contained behind a company’s firewall. To mitigate risk, protection must focus on the information, not the device or data center.
  • Not all information is created equal: Business must be able to separate useless data from valuable business information and protect it accordingly.
  • Be efficient: Deduplication and archiving technologies help companies protect more, but store less to keep pace with exponential data growth.
  • Consistency is key: It is important to set consistent policies for information that can be enforced wherever it’s located... physical, mobile, virtual and cloud environments.
  • Stay agile: Plan for your future information needs by implementing a flexible infrastructure to support continued growth.

To read the full 2012 State of Information Report, click here.