Cleaning Up Your Business’s Unstructured Rot Data

Cleaning Up Your Business’s Unstructured Rot Data

Companies today have more unstructured data than ever before. 

Unstructured data is content that can’t be easily organized or found in traditional databases. It includes documents like emails, proposals, agreements, presentations, audio recordings, scanned images, and even faxes.

Unstructured data isn’t easy to manage in a traditional database because it doesn’t fit neatly into a predefined structure. Instead of organizing discrete pieces of information by field, picklist, input, or variable as you would with structured data types, companies typically attempt to organize unstructured information using format, category, creator, and other data that doesn’t effectively capture the valuable information contained inside the file. As such, it is not always obvious how each piece of content fits together because unstructured data files don’t have clearly defined relationships between them.

Businesses increasingly turn to data governance solutions to help them identify, understand, and classify unstructured data so they can properly manage their information. During the process, these data governance solutions help organizations identify redundant, obsolete, and trivial content, which often consumes a large majority of the content stored by their organization. Once ROT data is identified, companies can then take steps to disposition content and defensibly dispose of ROT.

What is ROT data?

ROT is a term that stands for redundant, obsolete, and trivial data. It is data that bogs down an organization’s file shares and servers without adding any business value. 

ROT is context-specific, so it looks different across organizations. However, it splits up into three distinct categories:

Redundant Data

Redundant data is essentially file duplicates. You can have several copies of the same file in different locations within your organization. While you may have deleted some copies, many duplicates—such as convenience copies, old versions, and multiple downloads—might still exist elsewhere in your company databases.

Obsolete Data

Obsolete data was once useful but no longer has any strategic value for your organization. Alternatively, it might have been relevant at one time but has since become out-of-date and unreliable. Typically, obsolete data has limited strategic value and entails more risks than rewards.

Trivial Data

Finally, trivial data is unimportant or useless to the organization. This kind of data is no longer needed. Generally, organizations can readily erase trivial data without impacting company operations.
Regardless of its form, the importance of finding ROT is universal — and so are the risks and consequences of not finding it.

How does Data ROT Impact Your Business?

ROT is a looming problem for organizations.

Put it this way: the more data you have in your file servers, the harder it is to locate, manage, and safeguard. 

This can lead to a range of information management issues and risks, such as:

Overhead Costs

ROT data grows rapidly — and, as you can likely imagine, there is a financial cost to storing this information within an organization and the overhead costs of data management. This means that, as the volume of ROT data increases, so does the amount of money organizations must spend to maintain it. Yes, storage costs continue to get cheaper; however, the volumes of content in storage continue to grow and will incrementally require more budget every year and that spending cannot go unchecked.

Performance Issues

Storing unstructured data can hinder performance if the storage locations start to reach their capacity. This can result in slower response times when opening and displaying drive contents and when previewing files. This ultimately can lead to feelings of frustration for anyone looking for files to efficiently do their job. 

At best, productivity is slowed. At worst, ideas are lost, collaboration is limited, and internal or external customers are frustrated by delays and slow responses. When employees are fighting against their tools instead of leveraging them to do their best work, organizations can lose their competitive edge and the knock-on effects are far worse than the frustration of not being able to find the information you need.

Data Security Risk

Finally, ROT poses data security risks. 

ROT often contains confidential information from various sources, such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and intellectual property. These files are often left undisturbed for extended periods. Consequently, their access permissions and security compliances need to be updated.  

If an unauthorized user accesses sensitive documents through an unprotected file share or cloud service, your organization could be liable for any damages that result from those actions. 

Dedicating time and money to removing ROT data clutter will help you understand what data you have and how your organization can prioritize and leverage security efforts.

Unstructured Data Management: Why You Can’t Just Delete ROT Data 

While identifying and disposing of some ROT can significantly reduce data clutter in an organization’s file servers, you can’t simply delete it. 

As discussed above, ROT often includes sensitive information or evidence necessary for regulatory compliance. In other words, organizations must ensure that they are correctly storing their digital records, even if the information has no strategic value. Therefore, they must use a dedicated solution instead of simply deleting unwanted data from their servers.

The Importance of an Unstructured Data Analysis 

Performing regular analysis on your unstructured data is crucial for organizational efficiency, informed decision making, and data security.


Unstructured data and ROT can make your organization more productive when dealt with and managed effectively. 

When there is less clutter to bog down your content servers and file shares, you can speed up your organization’s productivity by locating needed files faster and making them more accessible.

Informed Decision-Making

Additionally, analyzing your data can give you more insight into customer behavior and opportunities for company growth.

For instance, a company analyzing its recent sales might be able to identify trends in customer behavior over time. These insights can then be used when developing new sales campaigns, products, services, or refining existing offerings. 

Smart Data Governance

Lastly, data analysis can help mitigate legal, privacy, and regulatory risks. 

Humans are often the weakest link in properly securing this type of information. Documents get saved in the wrong places; copies are stored in local servers and shared with colleagues, and the balance of permission and restriction is difficult to achieve. This can lead to unauthorized access, misuse, or worse.

With proper data management systems in place, your organization can eliminate files with PII or sensitive information, improve data governance strategy, and reduce risk exposure.

Managing Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial Content with Data Governance Software 

You don’t have to be an IT expert to understand why unstructured and ROT data management is such a daunting task.

Your business consists of thousands upon thousands of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations containing information about your clients, employees, and other critical aspects of your operation. These documents are often difficult to organize, making them difficult for anyone to find and use. 

Working with a trusted partner who understands how to deal with ROT data can go a long way to helping you understand it yourself. 

What Data Management Software Can Do for Your Organization

To manage ROT data effectively, you need software to help your team search through large amounts of documents within any given system or storage location. You also need an automated system that allows users who aren’t familiar with searching servers or databases to find what they are looking for faster than traditional manual methods.  

Data governance software can help you manage and reduce unstructured data across your organization. Additionally, it can help you archive ROT files so they are no longer a liability. 

 How Shinydocs Can Help

Your journey to understanding and managing unstructured data and ROT data starts here and now — with Shinydocs. 

With Shinydocs strategy and automation software in place, organizations will have the confidence to eliminate ROT data across all of their content sources — including social media posts and documents stored on SharePoint or OneDrive for Business sites. This will free them from having to keep unnecessary information around forever. 

Shinydocs software helps build rules that identify which files are ROT based on their age and frequency of access by users within an organization. Then, those files can be automatically marked for deletion or remediation if necessary. 

In addition to these capabilities, Shinydocs also uses visualization tools (dashboards). Dashboards allow users to see where their most critical content resides to take action on it confidently and set up an ongoing data cleanup program — ensuring that managing ROT won’t be an issue. 

Closing Considerations

The bottom line is that you can’t ignore ROT data. 

When it comes down to it, the best way to deal with unstructured and ROT data is to get organized. 

Start by figuring out precisely what is on hand, how much there is, and where it all lives. From there, work with a trusted partner — like Shinydocs — who specializes in secure data management so you can develop a plan for disposing of obsolete files so that they won’t come back to bite you later on.

We’re Rethinking Data

At Shinydocs, rethinking data means constantly questioning our assumptions, reimagining what’s possible, and testing new ideas every step of the way to transform how businesses function.

We believe that there’s a better, more intuitive way for businesses to manage their data. Contact us to improve your data management, compliance, and governance.

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