As cloud transformation continues its path towards ubiquity, the exponential growth of data is a reality that businesses in every sector must grapple with. This phenomenon, known as data sprawl, poses both opportunities and challenges for organizations of all sizes.
Data sprawl is all about the proliferation of data across various locations, formats, and systems, both within and outside an organization’s control. This data is not just confined to structured databases; it also includes unstructured data such as emails, documents, social media posts, and more. The proliferation of cloud services, remote work, and multiple device usage like IpT further exacerbates data sprawl, leading to data being scattered across different systems, servers, and geographical locations.
While data sprawl can lead to innovative insights and improved decision-making when managed effectively, it often opens the door to significant risks and complexities. These include increased costs for data storage and management, potential security vulnerabilities, and difficulties in maintaining data compliance and governance.
The main challenge with data sprawl is not just its volume but also its complexity and diversity. Because data can exist in various formats and can be stored in different systems, each with its own set of access controls and security measures. The “sprawl” ramps up the degree of difficulty for organizations in achieving a comprehensive view of their data, let alone manage and secure it effectively.
There are numerous reasons companies should care about data sprawl, and we’ll cover some compelling statistics in the next section, but here are three.
Ultimately, managing data sprawl is crucial for maintaining data security, ensuring regulatory compliance, and optimizing resource usage.
Concentric AI’s Q1 2023 Data Risk Report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of unstructured data within organizations — a key driver of data sprawl.
Unstructured data, which makes up over 80% of an organization’s data, is embedded in millions of financial reports, corporate strategies documents, source code files, and contracts. However, this data is akin to a shapeless lump of clay to IT security professionals, unseen and insecure. The report emphasizes the lack of visibility into where sensitive data is, much less where the risk is from entitlements, sharing, permissions, and activity.
In this context, data sprawl is a growing concern for businesses, underscored by the fact that the average organization has over 251 different types of business-critical categories hidden in its unstructured data. These categories range from human resources and sales to partner, product, financial, and legal documents.
The sprawl and diversity of unstructured data make it challenging to determine which documents should be a priority for security measures.
The report also presents alarming statistics on data at risk due to oversharing. On average, each organization had 802,000 data files at risk due to oversharing, up from 598,000 in the first half of 2022. Despite increasing cybersecurity investments, oversharing is a key indicator of data sprawl’s growing trend.
Also alarming: did you know that according to the report, 90% of business-critical documents are shared outside the C-suite, and over 15% of all business-critical files are at risk from oversharing, erroneous access permissions, and inappropriate classification? This can lead to internal or external users gaining access to sensitive information they should not have.
The report underscores the need for advanced AI capabilities, like those provided by Concentric AI, to process and categorize unstructured data, evaluate its business criticality, and accurately assess risk. This approach can help organizations gain visibility into their data sprawl, manage their unstructured data more effectively, and mitigate the risks associated with oversharing and inappropriate access.
Concentric AI offers a robust solution to the data sprawl challenge through its data discovery and classification solution. Concentric AI leverages advanced machine learning technologies to autonomously scan and categorize data, from financial data to personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), payment card information (PCI), intellectual property, and business confidential information — regardless of where it is stored.
With Concentric AI, organizations gain visibility into their sensitive data across unstructured or structured data repositories, email/messaging applications, and cloud or on-premises storage, all within a semantic context.
Our solution also provides centralized data classification, eliminating the need for complex rule writing or reliance on end-users. Because data can easily be shared, copied, duplicated, modified, and shared again in the era of cloud transformation, data classification has become a challenging exercise for enterprises. Concentric AI’s Semantic Intelligence allows security teams to identify their sensitive data with semantic context and label data centrally, making data classification a less daunting task.
Plus, Concentric AI seamlessly integrates with existing classification frameworks, enhancing the effectiveness of defense-in-depth, a pillar of modern data security planning. For instance, it integrates with Microsoft’s Information Protection (MIP) solution for data classification and management.
By providing autonomous data discovery, centralized data classification, and seamless integration with existing frameworks, Concentric AI offers a comprehensive solution to tackle the data sprawl issue — enhancing data security, ensuring regulatory compliance, and optimizing resource usage.
Book a demo today to see firsthand — with your own data — how Concentric AI can quickly and easily be deployed to manage data sprawl in your organization.
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