What Is Dark Data?

The black hole of dark dataIt sounds like an ominous plot by some evil mastermind intent on world domination.  But don’t worry, “dark data is more benign than the name suggests.

Although is collects in unlit corners and neglected back rooms, dark data is not a serious threat to your business. In fact, it might be more properly termed “dusty data.”

It’s that neglected data that accumulates in log files and archives that nobody knows what to do with. Although it never sees the light of day, no one feels comfortable destroying it because it might prove useful someday.

Could This Be The “Someday” You’ve Been Waiting For?

With all the recent press about the value of big data, you may be thinking that now is the time to dive into the secrets of the dark data hiding in your organization.

But before you invest in expanded storage capacity or sophisticated data analytics tools, take time to ask the big questions first – the ones that seek out the real value of the data for your business.

The authors of the CIO.com ebook, Big Data Analysis: What Every CIO Should Know, suggest that you start with such blue-sky questions as:

  • If only we knew . . . .
  • If we could predict . . . .
  • If we could measure . . . .

Determine what information you need in order to answer those high-value questions and use that as the standard by which you  evaluate all the available data, including the dark data that has never been a part of your regular business operations.

Is Your Dark Data a Business Intelligence Gold Mine?

By itself, some of that dark data may not have much value, but combine it with data you already collect or purchase and you may have a digital gold mine. Those web log files that were once just digital clutter could be the key to unlocking changing patterns in customer behavior that can put you ahead of your competition.

By taking the time to assess the value to your business and investing in the tools you need to shine a light on dark data, you may be able to turn those digital “black holes” into real business intelligence that you can put in the hands of your decision-makers.

 What If The Dark Data Are Just Digital Dust-Bunnies?

But what if your evaluation concludes that the dark data hiding in unswept corners are nothing more than digital dust-bunnies?

Even if you determine that it has negligible value for business intelligence, you’ve accomplished something of merit. Now that you’ve established the business case for freeing up IT resources wasted on maintaining low-value data, you’re free – at last - to hit the delete key.

Photo credit:  NASA Hubble Space Telescope

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