Data Exhaust – What Is It And Why Should IT Care?

Data Exhaust – What Is It And Why Should IT Care?

June 27

There are two sides to every coin. If big data represents the iconic profile of President Franklin Roosevelt on the front side, data exhaust may be the obscure olive branch and burning torch featured on the reverse side. Data exhaust is defined as the informational byproduct that constantly streams from web apps, mobile devices, POS systems, and other sources we interact with. Similar to how an automobile gives off exhaust while running, connected devices and IT systems create their own digital exhaust as they operate on a daily basis. It’s more or less the “other data” that you may not always go out of your way to collect, analyze, and put into play – but it can increase costs with data management and put data storage systems under stress.

exhaust photo

To give you an even better understanding of this concept, we’ll conjure up a scenario of data exhaust at work. A company that provides IT solutions probably has plenty of data around the transactions executed between their clients and business website. Info related to the initial sign-up and monthly payments can be considered the primary data that easily fits into your big data plans. Supporting details such as what device customers used, the time of day those transactions took place, and the navigational pattern that led them to checkout is the secondary data or exhaust many organizations don’t even bother with.

Making the Most of Data Exhaust

If you’re interested in fully maximizing the data that comes across your path, then harnessing that often overlooked excess is the answer. Here are three powerful ways organizations can make the most of data exhaust:

1. Use It For Design Tweaks

Despite playing second fiddle, the data that streams through that digital exhaust pipe can be very useful. In the above scenario, comprehensive analysis of secondary data can fuel design tweaks that improve the site’s navigation and usability. Additionally, it can enable marketing to contribute input that helps boosts conversions. The typical website collects an assortment of information on user preferences, traffic patterns, and behavior. Data exhaust challenges organizations to identify which pieces can be valuable in business applications, and which are insignificant enough to be discarded.

2. Monetize It With Data Brokers

After conducting inventory of your data assets and identifying what is immediate relevant to business operations, it’s possible to stretch that value by flipping it for a profit. This can be done in a variety of ways. For example, you can sell the raw data to brokers who specialize in reselling such information to companies that study it to better understand industry trends and make informed business decisions. Alternatively, you can perform the analysis so the insights are easy to interpret and visualize. The value skyrockets when data is presented in a way that illustrates its potential in real-world scenarios.

3. Trade It For More Data

The IT services field is one of several industries with consortium networks that offer opportunities for providers to exchange relevant information. MSPs with common interests can leverage this model to share data exhaust in attempt to help one another improve decision-making capabilities. Or you can work outside of those established models to form new associations built around exchanging information for business use. Sharing data exhaust can improve relationships with industry peers and partners who realize that in 2016, data is the new currency.

Data Exhaust on the Flip Side

I’ve heard pundits refer to data exhaust as big data’s evil twin. That’s a tad bit dramatic, but like it has the potential to be useful, it also has the potential to be disruptive in a big way, due to increasing costs with file storage and data management. Fail to use it in timely fashion, and it can easily lead to a case of having too much on your plate.

The infographic “The Hidden Costs of File Storage” aims to provide a glimpse at the true cost of data management. Below are some of the most interesting takeaways from the research:

  • 79 percent of professionals find data storage management to be among the biggest headaches associated with their job.
  • Organizations spend more than $3,000 per 1TB in annual storage costs.
  • The cost of data storage and protection for a minimum of three copies is nearly $18,000 per TB.
  • Complementary technologies such as network upgrades and file sharing solutions can cost as much as $8000 per location and $450 per user respectively.
  • Gartner predicts that organizations will have to double their storage capacity every three years to support the rapid growth of unstructured data.

The moral of the story: housing massive amounts of information isn’t cheap. Knowing when to dump outdated and negligible data is just as important as knowing how to identify the exhaust with immediate or eventual value to your business. The last thing you want to do is end up with a data swamp on your hands.

Data exhaust also puts privacy into focus. Chances are, some of the most lucrative nuggets in your informational reservoir are tied to your customers. For this reason you have to consider potential legal ramifications and public relations debacle that may result from capitalizing on those details. Using sensitive information without consent comes with the risk of alienating your audience and causing near irreparable damage to your reputation. With so much on the line, it makes sense to consult with an attorney before acting on any information that might cause a rift between customers or partners.

Data Exhaust Tips For IT

Like many data-related challenges, handling data exhaust is primarily a burden that falls on the shoulders of IT. Below are some basic guidelines IT teams can use to properly plan for this monumental task:

Educate your leaders: While data exhaust isn’t entirely new, it doesn’t exactly enjoy the buzzword
notoriety of big data. IT managers and analysts should have a basic understanding of what the concept means to your organization, potential value and drawbacks included.

Address technology needs: Embracing data exhaust will likely call for an investment in new storage devices and management tools. Make sure that IT has the budget and technology to create convenient access to this hidden information.

Measure success: Establish KPIs and other metrics that enable you to weigh the success of your data exhaust efforts against your business objectives.

Test test test: Every product, service, or process should be thoroughly tested, and this one is no different. The data itself should be tested for quality and veracity, while data storage and management platforms can be tested for speed, scalability, and reliability.

If you think about it, data exhaust is merely big data in an even bigger format. The information you generate across the digital universe is invaluable for the rich insights it offers, and even the bits hidden from plainview can contribute to that value.  So why let all that excess data just seep away? If you know where to find it, and can figure out what to do with it, data exhaust can be a tremendous asset for your business.