We have met the enemy and he is us. Walter Kelly, the creator of the comic strip Pogo, featuring animal characters who uttered simple but perceptive comments about society, shared this observation in 1970 on a poster to promote environmental awareness and to publicize the first Earth Day. In the illustration, Pogo the possum is shown holding a trash bag and a sharply whittled stick to pick up the garbage littering the swamp where he lived.
The same quote can serve us well today when we attempt to manage documents, PowerPoint presentations, email messages, instant messages and video and audio files we have strewn across our networks. If left unmanaged, the sheer volume of it is not only costly in terms of storage, but can also be a liability if the information within it cannot be located.
Structured Data vs Unstructured Data
In an effort to provide a semblance of order to these disparate forms of information, the phrase unstructured data was coined as they are not confined within the row/column structure of a database. The opposite term, structured data, refers to information that can be mapped within the predefined fields of a relational database.
The Value of Unstructured Data
Most companies know that the unstructured data stored in their systems is the key to making better business decisions, improving customer satisfaction, fueling innovation and their overall success as it holds all of their knowledge outside of their employees.
Unstructured Data Storage
A 2014 IDC study titled "Structured vs Unstructured Data: the Balance of Power Continues to Shift", discusses content in the enterprise with IT architects and executives from financial enterprises, healthcare facilities, telecommunication companies, value added content providers, and entertainment/media to determine the splits between the structured and unstructured data sets stored on their enterprise storage systems and and shipped in previous years. The study concluded that as of 2015, unstructured data would surpass structured data both in both the amount shipped and its revenue. The prediction is that by 2017, unstructured data will account for 79.2 % of the capacity shipped and 57.3% of revenue.
The Consequences of Data Breaches
Since unstructured data holds a wealth of sensitive information such as intellectual property, financial information and strategic business plans, protected health information, and customers' personal details, the loss of such data can do harm to any company. Companies who fail to secure such data have suffered reduced share prices, loss of revenue and profits, tarnished reputations, and erosion of partner and customer trust.
While some of these breaches result from the handiwork of hackers, it is still estimated that in 85% of stolen intellectual property cases, the owner knew the thief. This comprised of both insider theft and accidental disclosure.
The Need for Persistent Unstructured Content Security
The above estimation is easy to understand, considering that, in the course of any day, employees are constantly importing and exporting data in the form of spreadsheets, emails, documents, and emails, and sharing content with vendors and customers. While firewalls may serve as protection, what happens once important content ventures outside the firewall is beyond a company's control unless it applies persistent unstructured content security.
Persistent unstructured content security calls for searching, finding, and protecting each piece of sensitive unstructured data across the business so that, if needed, permissions can be revoked or changed no matter where the content that contains them resides. Smarter DLP is a solution that can do all this and more. Using automatic enterprise digital rights management (EDRM) and NSA-level encryption, it can even control access to sensitive unstructured content beyond the protection of the enterprise firewall or other perimeter based security solutions.