How Often Do You Dispose of Your Unwanted Digital Data?

For most of us the demands of our daily work on our time means that we end up saving and keeping old data and old files on our computers in ‘My Documents’, and in old emails because we rarely get around to sorting through them. Our computers, storage devices and company servers gradually fill up with old files, many of which we forget we even had or what they contain.

Our old data however can contain details that could pose a serious security risk e.g. it could contain personal details, business or even industry secrets. That’s one important reason why it is worth making the time to check though and delete outdated and unwanted data.


Disposing of Unwanted Email Data

Old email conversations can contain attachments and other information that is important and / or potentially sensitive.  As well as the security aspect old email attachments e.g. spreadsheets, word documents, pdfs and photos can also take up extra space in the email account.

Having a sensible space limit on company email accounts is one way to encourage housekeeping but other ways to encourage disposal of unwanted email data could include regular monthly monitoring, an archiving procedure for attachments, and / or adopting an inbox zero strategy.  Having a clear Data Retention Policy in place that everyone in the organisation is familiar with will also help to ensure that essential compliance data is easily identified and retained.

It can also help to identify data that it is not necessary to keep.  When you think about how many of the old emails in your inbox that you actually need to re-visit or use on a daily basis you can see the case for setting some time aside to at the very least clean things up and create more space.


Disposing of Removable Media

How many of us have old USB sticks, DVDs and CDRs perhaps in a drawer where we may have forgotten what they actually contain?  The fact is that removal media can be easily lost and well…removed leading to the loss of potentially sensitive and / or commercially valuable data.  Make sure you have a sensible policy / procedure in place for dealing with how removable media are used and stored with the idea being that as little as possible are left lying around, in drawers, taken out of the office and lost, or left within easy sight and reach.

Disposing of Hard Disk Data

The ‘My Documents’ area on computers can be a general storage area for data and duplicated data that is months and often years old.  For many of us though the idea of having to find the time to sift through it all is too daunting.

There are many online guides to help you get organised plus you can use your browser and 3rd party software and apps to help to identify and delete superfluous and unwanted files and folders e.g. see the Explorerplusplus file manager.

Knowing what happens to your deleted files and being thorough in following up is also important when disposing of old data.  Things like regularly emptying the recycle bin through to knowing what happens to deleted files on network drives and in your particular shared network situation can all help.


Be Careful and Thorough

Clear rules, policies, guidelines and responsibilities in deletion of old data e.g. having a specified person sign off deletions and making alternative storage available, can help to ensure that the right compliance data is retained, time and space wasting clutter is removed and data security risks are minimised.