Dark data: what it is, and why it’s important

Dark data: what it is, and why it’s important


● Dark data is an increasingly pertinent prospect in an era of big data booms
● If left unattended, dark data can expose loopholes & discrepancies in your infrastructure
● With the right know-how, dark data can be leveraged to your company’s benefit

In the current era of big data analytics, how much data is too big? Companies collect a vast array of data sets on the road to customer engagement. What about the collected data that falls by the wayside?

Dark data, defined

According to Gartner, dark data is classified as:

“The information assets organizations collect, process, and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes.”

The big data wave has set off some common misconceptions around the base concept of dark data. The “dark” term does not have negative connotations per se. However, dark data can become increasingly difficult to ignore if it’s left to pile up as is.

At first glance, dark data might seem like an inevitable byproduct of every churning data engine. Look beyond the surface, however, and you’ll notice that your dark data could be the key to significant marketing optimization.

The unused data dilemma

When we look at dark data by the average numbers, the sheer scale of unused potential comes to light.

  • A recent IBM study reveals that around 80% of all data ever collected is uncategorized (and thereby dark) in some form.
  • In terms of storage and general overhead costs, dark data costs around $26 million per year worldwide.

This abundance of unused data often isn’t from a single large source. Dark data is often found strewn across various aspects of a company’s data logistics. Think about the defunct extensive spreadsheets, employee information and database archives a mid-size company would have accumulated over time. It may not be of any active benefit to the company, but is it really detrimental in the long run?

Dark data: why it matters

Dealing with dark data isn’t merely a question of restricting overall data flow. For instance, companies have regulatory compliances to adhere to, which entails some level of excess boilerplate data. If left unchecked, it can lead to major concerns, such as:

  • Sensitive/classified information being compromised
  • Significant costs racking up for latent data storage
  • Loopholes in data management/insight derivation

Conversely, being proactive about your dark data is beneficial.

  • It can unlock potential strategies for business growth
  • It can identify potential loopholes in your operational framework
  • Dark data analysis can optimize your data regulation compliance
  • Cleaner data creates more streamlined data insights

Dark data demystified

Misconceptions (or lack of awareness) surrounding dark data have held marketers back from acting on it effectively. Understanding the nature and scale of dark data in one’s organization is the first step to leveraging it into actionable insights for company growth. With concise knowledge and awareness, your dark data can enlighten your marketing strategy!

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