Data Sprawl is a major issue in today’s digital landscape. 

The unrestricted growth and dispersal of data across platforms and devices can lead to security vulnerabilities, regulatory non-compliance and operational inefficiencies for organisations of all sizes.

It’s vital for decision-makers to understand the implications of data sprawl, and explore strategies to combat the problem.

What is Data Sprawl?

In short, it’s the uncontrolled expansion of an organisation’s data across various platforms, applications and storage locations.

Propelled by the evolution of technology in recent years, data sprawl is often caused by the rapid creation of data, a lack of proper data governance, inadequate categorisation and a lack awareness of data handling best practices.

It increases the risk of unauthorised access and data breaches and leads to difficulties in managing, securing and optimising data effectively.

Dispersed data becomes a vulnerable target for cyber attacks, making robust security measures crucial to safeguard your sensitive information.

Data sprawl makes it difficult for organisations to manage data effectively and also leads to problems including:

Increased costs

Storing and managing large volumes of data can become expensive.

Security risks

Data sprawl can make it difficult to identify and protect sensitive data.

Compliance challenges

Organisations that are subject to data privacy and security regulations may find it difficult to comply with those regulations if they have poor data governance practices in place.

Reduced productivity

Employees may waste time searching for data stored in different locations, or that is difficult to access.

Understanding data sprawl best practices

To combat data sprawl effectively, companies first need to implement robust data governance policies and procedures.

Establishing clear guidelines for data classification, access control and data lifecycle management helps in maintaining a structured approach to data handling.

Managing data sprawl with specialised tools

Using advanced data management and analytics tools will significantly help in managing data sprawl. 

Cloud data management platforms like Rubrik and Commvault offer robust solutions to prevent data sprawl. 

They provide a unified system that simplifies data protection, automates routine tasks and ensures data is stored optimally across various environments.

Similarly, data analytics tools like Tableau and Power BI not only help visualise data but also identify redundant data, thereby improving efficiency. 

Storage resource management tools like SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor can also play a crucial role in preventing data sprawl by providing deep insights into storage usage and capacity trends. 

By leveraging these tools, companies can significantly mitigate the risks associated with data sprawl, enhance security and make more efficient use of resources.

Data sprawl cost optimisation 

Data sprawl often leads to unnecessary costs related to storage, data redundancy and inefficient resource allocation.

Implementing cost-effective storage solutions and optimising data usage can help mitigate these financial burdens.

Addressing security risks related to data sprawl

Data sprawl poses a serious security threat as it increases the potential attack surface for cyber threats.

Employing robust security measures, including encryption, regular audits, and access control, is essential to protect sensitive data from unauthorised access and potential breaches.

Navigating compliance challenges in the realm of data sprawl

Compliance with various data protection and privacy regulations is a complex task when dealing with data sprawl. Implementing compliance-focused strategies, including thorough data mapping and adherence to regulatory requirements, is crucial to ensure legal compliance.

Strategies to avoid data sprawl for start-ups

Start-ups should establish clear data management policies from the outset to avoid data sprawl as they grow.

Streamlining data processes and adopting scalable solutions can help manage data effectively as the startup expands.

Effective approaches to avoid data sprawl for enterprise organisations

Large enterprises should invest in comprehensive data management platforms that offer centralised control and visibility over both internal and customer data.

Implementing stringent data access controls and regular training for employees can also play a vital role in preventing data sprawl.

Analysing data sprawl in the big data era

The advent of big data has further exacerbated the issue of data sprawl. Organisations dealing with massive volumes of data must now invest in advanced big data analytics solutions that provide insights into data usage and storage patterns, aiding in efficient data management.

The future of data management in the context of data sprawl

The future of data management will revolve around intelligent automation and AI-driven tools. These technologies will play a crucial role in identifying, organising and optimising data to combat data sprawl and duplicate data effectively.

What is data access governance, and how can it help? 

Data access governance is the framework of policies, procedures and standards that an organisation uses to manage its data. It helps to ensure that data is accurate, complete, secure and accessible to those who need it.

By implementing a data access governance framework, organisations can:

  • Improve the quality of their data
  • Reduce the risk of data breaches and other security incidents
  • Ensure that data is accessible to those who need it
  • Improve compliance with data privacy and security regulations
  • Reduce the costs associated with data storage and management

Here are some tips for implementing data access governance solutions to address data sprawl:

  • Define your data governance goals and objectives.
  • Identify the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders.
  • Develop policies and procedures for data management.
  • Implement data management tools and technologies.
  • Train employees on data governance best practices.

By taking these steps, organisations can improve their data governance and mitigate some of the risks associated with data sprawl.

What is ROT data?

ROT stands for Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial. As the acronym suggests, this type of data includes information that is either repetitive (redundant), out-of-date (obsolete), or lacks any real value (trivial).

Despite not contributing to any meaningful insights or business decisions, ROT data continues to consume valuable storage space and resources and is a key part of data sprawl.

The generation of ROT data

Redundant data often arises from multiple teams working on similar projects, leading to duplication.

Obsolete data stems from outdated project files, old versions of documents, or unused applications.

Trivial data, on the other hand, could be anything from irrelevant emails to non-work-related files saved on company servers.

The impact of ROT data

The presence of ROT data can pose several challenges for businesses. Firstly, it leads to wasted storage space which could otherwise be utilised for meaningful, value-adding data.

Secondly, sorting through ROT data to find relevant information can be time-consuming and inefficient.

Lastly, storing obsolete and redundant data increases the risk of non-compliance with data protection regulations, leading to potential legal issues.

Identifying and eliminating ROT data

Identifying and eliminating ROT data is a crucial step towards efficient data management. Here are some actionable steps:

  1. Audit your data: Regularly review your data assets to identify redundancy, irrelevance, or obsoleteness.
  2. Implement a data retention policy: Define how long each type of data should be retained before it is considered obsolete.
  3. Use data management tools: Several software tools can automate the process of identifying and removing ROT data.


What are the main causes of data sprawl?

Data sprawl is primarily caused by uncontrolled data growth and the lack of centralised data management policies within an organisation. As data spreads across various platforms and storage locations, it becomes challenging to manage and secure effectively.

How can startups effectively manage data to avoid sprawl?

Startups can manage data effectively by establishing clear data management policies, adopting scalable solutions, and regularly reviewing and optimising data processes as they grow.

How can larger organisations prevent data sprawl while scaling their operations?

Larger-scale enterprises can prevent data sprawl by investing in comprehensive data management platforms, implementing stringent data access controls and providing regular employee training on data handling and security.

Are there any emerging trends in data management to manage data sprawl?

Emerging trends in data management include the use of AI-driven tools and intelligent automation, which can aid in identifying, organising and optimising data to effectively combat the challenges posed by data sprawl.

You can mitigate data sprawl’s impact by being proactive

Data sprawl is a critical challenge that businesses and organisations of all sizes and sectors need to address.

Implementing best practices, utilising specialised tools, optimising costs, enhancing security, ensuring compliance and strategising for the future are key aspects of mitigating the impact of data sprawl.

By adopting a proactive approach, you can effectively manage data and steer towards a more secure and efficient data management landscape.

You can also sign up for a free cloud health assessment with the Digital Craftsmen team, to assess the cloud and data ecosystem within your business. 

The report could help you save anywhere up to 30% on costs, with actionable recommendations that provide the basis for a roadmap to becoming data wise.

Talk to Digital Craftsmen’s cloud experts and see how they can help you combat data sprawl.

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