While there’s no such thing as a genuinely dull year, it’s safe to say that 2022 represented a particularly tumultuous twelve months. It was a year that began with immense hope and optimism as the world began its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but soon delivered equal measures of heartache and challenges – conflict between Russia and Ukraine, spiraling global energy prices, and the looming prospect of another global recession.
As 2022 draws to an end, it’s natural to start thinking about what 2023 will bring to the table. Will it be a year of economic doom and gloom, or will it represent a triumphant return to a booming business environment?
This is an immensely complicated question that touches everything from geopolitics to the international energy market. However, while we may not be experts in those fields, we are experts in a topic that equally touches virtually every industry and region – unstructured data.
We have assembled a trio of predictions for how the next 12 months will shape up and how our use of data will impact and be affected by this. Of course, we expect a challenging year ahead, but as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
With those words in mind, all of us at DryvIQ wish you an optimistic, opportunity-filled 2023.
Prediction One: Data Efficiency Becomes Vital as the Economy Slows
There’s no avoiding the fact that the global economic outlook is gloomy. The World Bank expects worldwide inflation to hit around 5% in 2023 and says that the world is edging toward “a global recession […] and a string of financial crises in emerging markets and developing economies.” Interest rates are rising, and lines of credit are drying up as lenders hesitate to let their money out of sight.
As a result, many companies will tighten their belts and cut costs where possible. Many prominent tech companies are already tackling this through sweeping layoffs, but plenty of other options are open to businesses.
For example, data storage is an area many companies face challenges from fee increases and sprawling usage. However, organizations can find immediate savings by better understanding what they’re paying to host their data, and minimizing the data stored where possible.
When we analyze customer systems, we regularly find that more than a third of the unstructured data on an organization’s expensive live servers is “stale” – either outdated or duplicated information that can safely be archived or deleted. Using automated tools to identify and organize this data allows organizations to slash storage fees with minimal effort, for example by automatically migrating this content to less expensive archival storage or purging it altogether. Rather than representing a cost for the business, a comprehensive data discovery and minimization project will generate net savings.
Another way of reducing costs is to use existing assets more efficiently.
For some companies, this means changing manufacturing schedules to reduce power consumption, but for data-driven enterprises, this can include more focused analysis and exploitation of existing information. We often hear organizations say that data is their most valuable asset – now is the time to prove that this is more than just empty words.
Indeed, when spending is tight, and the future is uncertain, proactive unstructured data management offers a valuable way for an organization to do more with less and reduce its overall expenditure.
Prediction Two: Growing Staff Turnover Raises Security Risks
We may have seen the end of the COVID-fueled “Great Resignation,” but businesses across the globe are still seeing increased employee turnover. Gartner has been predicting a 20% leap compared to the pre-pandemic averages. At the same time, Human Resources Today magazine estimates that as much as 35% of employees might voluntarily leave their jobs in 2023.
When combined with the ongoing layoffs seen in many sectors, we can expect a spike in workers leaving and joining organizations. Naturally, this state of flux has implications that reach across the enterprise. Still, one that’s easy to overlook is the impact it has on how businesses manage their security risks.
Having large numbers of staff leaving the business opens a wide array of challenges that range from data privacy and compliance concerns surrounding ex-employees’ personal information to corporate theft and information leaks. There are even cases where disgruntled employees have intentionally sabotaged or deleted critical data.
These risks are amplified by the fact that many employees are now operating remotely. Once upon a time, removing an ex-employee’s access to sensitive documents was relatively simple – you locked them out of the office. However, modern employees often have extensive access and permissions that can take time for the IT team to remove. This situation is further complicated by the rise of so-called shadow IT, made up of all the unofficial tools and systems used by employees without any oversight.
If an overstretched IT department is to keep track of who has access to data, where it’s stored, and what it contains, they need oversight of everything stored on the company’s systems. The best way to achieve this is by running an ongoing discovery and classification of the enterprise’s collection of unstructured data, which reveals what information the organization is storing and who has access to it. Without this kind of insight, it’s easy for even the most dedicated IT experts to miss potential risks.
Prediction Three: Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) Explodes
Not every change in the business world is as predictable as mass layoffs during a global recession. Growing evidence shows that companies with transparent environmental and social governance (ESG) are one of the hottest topics around the boardroom table.
In a recent Gartner survey, CEOs reported that environmental and social changes are now a top three priority for investors. Research also shows that more than 90% of banks monitor organizations’ ESG commitments, with more than two-thirds actively screening their portfolios for ESG risks.
This isn’t just a matter of interest for businesses looking for investment. HR Magazine reports that four in five workers say ESG values play a factor in whether they join or stay with a company – an important issue when combined with increasing employee turnover.
Major manufacturers and energy companies often grab ESG headlines, but any organization using centralized data centers or cloud systems has a role to play. According to the Department of Energy, data centers currently account for around 2% of all US electricity usage — and this number is climbing as more businesses move their operations to the cloud. While cloud operators are making efforts to improve efficiency and boost the sector’s environmental credentials with increased use of renewables, users can also play their part by limiting the amount of stale data they upload and maintain.
But ESG isn’t just about reducing emissions and helping the environment. Organizations are looking to the social side of the equation also. Improving employee welfare, for example, can enable staff to balance their office and remote working schedules. Many organizations overhauled their IT systems during the pandemic to offer an effective hybrid work environment — however, to deliver hybrid working securely requires a more holistic system and data management perspective. Utilizing proactive data discovery and protection tools enables organizations to understand how workers interact with remote working and collaboration, helps identify areas that could benefit from further staff training, and isolates security or compliance risks as soon as they happen — rather than when they become an issue.
A Year of Changes
Every new year promises plenty of challenges and opportunities, and 2023 will be no different. Businesses need to face the year from the strongest position they can — managing potential risks while being open to as many opportunities as possible.
For some organizations, this will mean tightening up finances and reducing risk. For others, exploiting data to drive innovation and add new revenue streams will be the focus.
No matter the driver, unstructured data is the common theme across all these areas as we enter 2023. Whether you are looking to reduce costs, increase productivity, or mitigate against security risks, effective and proactive unstructured data management and protection is a consistent need — that’s not a prediction but a cold, hard fact.