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3 Takeaways from Gen Z’s Security & Sustainability Data Storage Perception Gap

Data Storage Perception Gap

Data Storage Perception Gap

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise business software. In this feature, Veritas Technologies‘ Rags Srinivasan offers takeaways from Gen Z’s security data storage perception gap.

IT leaders spend all day, every day thinking about their organizations’ cloud-based data, from how to save on storage to protecting themselves against ransomware. In contrast, most consumers don’t think twice about data storage and maintenance. Even Generation Z consumers, a younger, digitally native demographic, aren’t much better. Many of them hold on to unused online accounts and associated data without thinking about the data protection risks, environmental impact and financial costs of digital storage.

Earlier this year, a survey* of more than 13,000 consumers examined some of their digital data habits and what they know about the environmental implications of data storage. Here are three key takeaways from the data and how IT leaders and consumers can make data protection and sustainability a priority.

Download Link to Data Storage Buyer's Guide

Data Storage Perception Gap

As Data Storage Grows Exponentially, so do the Environmental Impact & Security Risks

The size of real-time data in the global datasphere is expected to expand tenfold—from five zettabytes to 51 zettabytes—between 2018 and 2025. Most of this is enterprise data. And when an average of 50 percent of a company’s data is redundant, obsolete or trivial, and another 35 percent is dark, meaning it has unknown value, the potential repercussions of storing this vast quantity of data outweighs the benefits.

Beyond the financial cost of storage, data has a large impact on an organization’s carbon footprint. More data means more energy used for data storage, leading to more CO2 emissions. More data and online customer accounts also mean a larger digital footprint, which opens companies and individuals up to increased cybersecurity and data compliance risks. There is an even greater risk when it comes to unused accounts, which consumers have plenty of—60 percent of Gen Z respondents have online accounts they no longer use. Of those, four-fifths (80 percent) report having entertainment and shopping accounts they no longer use and nearly three-fourths (71 percent) report having an online bank account they no longer use. If an individual ignores inactive accounts that hold financial or other sensitive information and their passwords are compromised, they could experience a data breach and not even know it.

Gen Z Doesn’t Realize the Part They Play in Data Storage Pollution

While the environmental impact of broader enterprise data management is under constant scrutiny, the survey found that Gen Z consumers are not aware of how their own digital habits tie into that and can negatively impact the environment. In fact, 51 percent of Gen Z consumers failed to recognize that the electronic versions of their account-related statements and other unnecessarily stored digital information have a negative environmental impact.

For the average consumer, it’s easy to forget that data centers are mostly fossil fuel-powered and generate about the same amount of CO2 as the airline industry. Most sustainability efforts focus on broad stroke concepts of energy reduction or opting for more sustainable materials to reduce carbon footprints, so it’s not surprising that many consumers are unaware of the environmental implications of data storage associated with their own online accounts. Organizations should plan accordingly for this knowledge gap and implement deduplication strategies for customer data to efficiently minimize redundant data stored in the cloud.

Where Does the Responsibility Lie? Educate Customers to Align Expectations & Relay Best Practices

Nearly half (44 percent) of Gen Z respondents said it’s wrong for businesses to waste energy and cause pollution by storing unneeded information online. But keeping in mind consumers’ propensity for keeping unused online accounts, the responsibility lies with both consumers to delete their inactive accounts and unneeded information, and organizations to wipe any redundant, obsolete or trivial consumer data from their data storage and backups.

Storing unnecessary data in the cloud increases the carbon footprints and data protection risks for organizations and individuals, so it’s important that everyone is aware of the part they play in the creation and reduction of unoptimized data in the cloud. To do this, organizations should arm their customers with the facts and outline personal data management best practices in plain terms. Using infographics and visuals can make this information easier to understand for those with limited technical background and knowledge. Organizations should also send reminders to users who have not been active in over a year to close any unused accounts and delete any obsolete data, noting the positive data protection and environmental impacts this can have.

Now is the Time to Address Data Management Strategies

Consumers will continue to closely scrutinize the sustainability practices of organizations, and as time progresses, become increasingly aware of data protection and security risks. If an organization has not prioritized techniques to reduce unnecessary storage in the cloud and relayed the importance of this issue to consumers, now is the time to start. With the countless benefits of streamlining data storage, including reduced cost, better environmental outcomes and increased preparedness for ransomware attacks, the entire business will gain from an overhaul of poor data management practices.

*The study of 13,000 consumers was conducted by 3Gem on behalf of Veritas Technologies across Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE, the UK and the US from February 1-16, 2023.

Download Link to Data Storage Buyer's Guide

Rags Srinivasan

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