What is data sprawl and how do you manage it?

What is data sprawl and how do you manage it?

Data is an organization’s most valuable resource. It enables business owners to make informed decisions, understand their client base, and streamline processes. But managing data is becoming more difficult than ever. Documents and records are scattered in clusters of filing cabinets, servers, corporate intranets, and emails. Businesses are also generating more data than they can keep up with, creating a phenomenon called “data sprawl.”

Data sprawl defined

Data sprawl refers to the staggering amount and variety of data produced by businesses every day. This is largely due to the variety of enterprise software, mobile apps, storage systems, and data formats each company relies on. Although capturing massive quantities of data offers many benefits in terms of analytics, things can quickly spiral out of control and cause several problems.

One issue is that files and records are spread out across many locations, making it difficult to retrieve the information you need. For example, you may have financial information stored in an accounting database (ERP) while your customer data is in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Your data might also be siloed per department, branch, and device. If you want to derive meaningful insights from your data, you’ll have to manually cross-reference multiple data sources, which can lead to errors and misinformed decisions.

There’s also a lot of time and money associated with managing scattered information silos, not to mention the wasted effort involved when data is duplicated because employees don’t know that the specific data they need already exists in the system.

The biggest concern with data sprawl, however, is cybersecurity. Data is much harder to keep track of when it’s dispersed across your departments. For all you know, employees may be handling data carelessly or unauthorized users may have access to your most sensitive records. This puts your company at risk of noncompliance with industry-specific regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. What’s more, every system that has access to important data can become a potential target for cyberattacks. This means you need to implement stronger security measures for networks, devices, applications, and the data itself.

How to manage data sprawl

A structured approach to data management can go a long way in moderating the sprawl. There are multiple tools and strategies you can use to accomplish this.

  • Migrate to cloud storage – The first thing you should do is consolidate data in a centralized cloud repository where users can access and store files with ease. Such an environment makes data accessible from any internet-enabled device and eliminates silos by providing companies with a single source of truth. Ideal cloud storage solutions include PaperSaveCloud, a cutting-edge document management system (DMS).
  • Utilize enterprise indexing and search – Another reason why you should consider a cloud-based DMS is its advanced document capture and search features. The latter uses an AI-enhanced feature called optical character recognition (OCR) to process information from scanned documents and other electronic files. The DMS then tags, or indexes, these files so users can search for them in seconds by entering specific keywords. Users only need to type the vendor name and creation date to retrieve an invoice among thousands of records.
  • Integrate software applications – Software integration also helps to break down the information silos created by different departments and branches. For instance, by pairing DMS, CRM, and accounting software, you’ll have complete visibility into your operations and be able to draw upon the collective intelligence of your company to make smarter decisions.
  • Implement multilayered security – You need to have a robust security strategy that covers not only your data, but also the systems that have access to them. This involves implementing access restrictions, encryption systems, and multifactor authentication (MFA) to prevent unauthorized access to data. Additionally, your cloud DMS must be secured with cutting-edge firewalls, data loss prevention tools, and security monitoring services to safeguard your data from the latest threats.
  • Set data security policies – Last but not least, create a set of policies that determine how users should handle data. This may include policies that prevent users from sharing sensitive files with unauthorized users, accessing cloud DMS through public Wi-Fi networks, and recycling passwords across their accounts. Regular training is also crucial to enforcing these policies and ensuring employees are aware of the security risks associated with poor data practices.

Data sprawl may pose a unique challenge for organizations, but with some planning and robust solutions, you can drastically streamline your operations. PaperSave is a must-have tool for beating data sprawl. Sign up for a free personalized demo today to find out why.