Have you ever wondered what data you are storing in unstructured files … word processing, spreadsheets, scanned copies of identity documents, etc?

You’ve probably got a good idea of where the important files are stored … or have you? Maybe you did when your company first started up, but before long other people were involved, and suddenly your data was being stored all over the place.

In the past, it was “good enough” (it wasn’t really) to be able to find specific information that you needed to run your business.

No longer “good enough”

With GDPR coming into force on 25th May 2018 (and the very similar UK Data Protection Bill going through parliament to cover post-Brexit), things are about to change!

You will need to know what you’re storing, who that data relates to, and ensure you only keep it whilst there is a legitimate need to do so. And quite rightly too in my opinion.

Let us not forget that a significant part of your companies core fabric, for staff, clients, sales, and day to day running of the company is governed by these unstructured file documents. They are critical to your success, and they contain a massive amount of personal data.

Just having a list of all of the files your company stores is not enough … but it’s a good place to start!

Challenges finding files on the cloud

If you store your files locally on windows servers, NAS drives, some desktops, then getting a list of what you have in terms of documents is not that hard. There are some quite good (free or cheap) apps to do this for you.

Companies set up in the last decade store most or all of their data on the cloud. It’s an easy way to start, and why would most companies ever want to build an IT infrastructure team to bring this in house later. File sync and share (e.g. Dropbox, OneDrive, etc) is one of the first obvious cloud apps that companies use, perhaps even using the founders personal account to start with.

So how do you find out what you’ve got stored on ALL of your cloud file storage accounts? Yes remember the ones you used at the start (the founders personal one), and the one used for a couple of years before you moved to the current solution. Or did you delete the old files when you moved to the new solutions?

Well this is the challenging bit, because it seems many of the cloud file storage companies provide just a couple of poor options:

  1. Get a massive desktop for your administrator, and sync every file to it to get the file listing that way
    • A crazy waste of resource (HW, network, time), as well as not ideal from a security or sustainability perspective
    • Not possible if you’ve got too much data to fit, or if some of it has been vaulted out to an offline archive
  2. Write a script to talk to the companies specific API to get a file listing
    • So you signed up to the cloud for simplicity … but now you need to write scripts to do something that surely EVERY customer needs to be able to do
    • Not every cloud company provides this option by the way
  3. You could try to piece it together from everyones desktop cached folders, but that will not exactly yield 100% of the data

Data MetaMorph’s experience

We’ve been in contact with the cloud file storage company that we use over the last year. I won’t name them … yet. Nine months on from our initial discussions they still don’t have any way of doing this aside from option 1 … and GDPR goes live in about 10 weeks time!

We understand our file data well enough to manage for now …. this is our area of expertise after all …. but without the right improvements, we will be looking for a new supplier in the near future.

What is your experience, and what have you been doing to get help?

Categories: Data Management

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