Data fragmentation - a crippling trend

How can lack of IT control lead to increased cost and lost opportunity?

Elize Holl
By Elize Holl
Johannesburg, 10 Jul 2013

The fragmentation of corporate data across business IT infrastructure is gradually being recognised as a major obstacle towards agile and effective decision-making. Without a holistic view of mission-critical information and the paths it charters, both in and out of the organisation, IT and managerial staff are simply unable to make the most of the material at their disposal.

An influx of 'shadow IT' user devices - a term often used to describe IT systems and solutions employed within corporate frameworks without formal approval, and the emergence of popular consumer cloud offerings over which these organisations exert no influence, is primarily to blame.

In a recent study conducted by global research and analysis forum, Freeform Dynamics, and sponsored by Mimecast, 82% of IT managers in UK and US mid-sized organisations see decision-making hampered by data availability issues and 77% by data inconsistency.

Furthermore, 81% are concerned that employees are putting sensitive data onto consumer grade cloud storage and services, while 93% admitted they are currently struggling to control critical corporate data.

Fast and furious

This is a major challenge. Globally, it is estimated that e-mail users send 204 million messages every minute. In the same timeframe, the mobile Web welcomes 217 new users, while 571 new Web sites are created and published.

Put simply, this equates to 2.5 quintillion bytes each day. This sudden rush to create is so formidable, in fact, that 90% of the electronic data in existence has been produced in the last two years alone.

Much of this information sees first light within the corporate fold. Although a large portion of the records and documents created on a daily basis are personal in nature, people spend much of their time at work. It is not uncommon to simply reroute a professional e-mail to a hosted private mailbox for later consumption, or to store an important file in a personal cloud repository for easy access over the weekend.

The sheer weight of this information is almost too much to comprehend. Organising and understanding it all requires an incredibly robust IT infrastructure and a sound analysis strategy.


Implemented and evaluated correctly, data has the power to open new doors. By diving into corporate information and pulling out key insights, executive employees are able to drive strategy into unchartered waters - often resulting in unexpected success and positive outcomes.

An analysis of this nature is impossible in a fragmented data environment. If a business is unable to control and assess valuable corporate information, potential revenue streams or competitive insights could be easily lost.

The cost associated with this trend is considerable. Failure to take advantage of strategic opportunity is a significant corporate risk. In highly aggressive market environments, entities with access to key insights often outperform the competition.

Furthermore, underutilised internal storage infrastructure can quickly increase operational overheads, especially in environments where careful use-case scenarios have been conducted prior to implementation.

Ninety percent of the electronic data in existence has been produced in the last two years alone.

Wasted storage capacity due to repeated over-provisioning, multiple copies of data and the impact of consumer-based cloud facilities encourage complexity. Unfortunately, dense IT environments often require significant time and attention.

With this in mind, a startling 80% of respondents admitted the problem or the danger of storage costs is out of control. This means eight out of every 10 businesses are currently unable to take full advantage of internal systems while making the most of valuable data analyses.

Data fragmentation is a mounting challenge. As complexity grows, so it becomes increasingly difficult for business to claw its way out of the quicksand.

The answer lies in determining and implementing a data management policy at an early stage. Without this protocol in place, the risks associated with shadow IT devices and data leakage to consumer-based cloud storage portals is significant.

With this in mind, it is also vitally important not to limit employees to rigid controls which restrict workflow. By empowering staff with internal guidelines and approved, well-appointed IT systems that allow them to effectively carry out their duties, organisations can sidestep data fragmentation altogether.