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Consumers Disapprove of Energy Waste and Pollution from Unnecessary Data Storage

By Tracey E. Schelmetic March 31, 2023

How much data is too much data for companies to collect? One might argue that collecting and storing unnecessary data raises the threat level for data leaks and the resulting damage to customers. It’s also possible to make an environmental case for storing data. The vast data centers used to store information wastes energy and produces environmental pollution, and customers aren’t on board with this type of unnecessary use of resources. It has been estimated that two percent of global energy-related pollution emissions are caused by data centers.

Multi-cloud data management company Veritas Technologies recently conducted research that found that nearly half of consumers think it's the responsibility of the organizations that store their information online to delete it when it's no longer needed. Consumers also disapprove of data-related pollution: 47 percent) said they would stop buying from a company if they knew it was willfully causing environmental damage by failing to control how much unnecessary or unwanted data it is storing.

The research also found that three-fifths of respondents said they would like to see more focus from organizations on controlling the negative impact of online data storage on the environment. This could include organizations encouraging their customers to close unused or inactive accounts and guidance on deleting obsolete information they no longer need or want.

"Beyond the costs of storing data, the hidden costs of its environmental impact should be at the top of every business leader's agenda,” said Rags Srinivasan, chief sustainability officer at Veritas Technologies. “Data centers run 24 hours a day and by 2030 are expected to use as much as eight percent of all electricity on the planet. 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."

Veritas has noted in its research that half of the data enterprises store is redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) and another 35 percent is "dark" with unknown value.

“Many consumers feel passionately about reducing their carbon footprints, but the average organization is still causing more pollution by storing data they know is not needed than data they believe to be useful—on average, just 15 percent of data is business critical,” added Srinivasan.

Edited by Erik Linask
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