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The 5 Deadly Data Management Sins

All too often, we data professionals are our own nemesis when it comes to handling data. Many of the mistakes data professionals and system administrators make are not as destructive as an all-out data breach, but failing to recognize the danger in our own habits increases the risk that the business will fall short of its goals.

So, while the world’s collective media shine a light on the never-ending list of security breaches, I suggest that there are actually more common, and dare I say, even bigger threats that data professionals need to guard against. These threats are lust, gluttony, greed, slothfulness, and pride.Not all data professionals are guilty of every one of these sins; rather, the collection of individuals that comprise modern enterprise IT shops is culpable. Let’s walk through examples for each data management – or rather, mismanagement – sin.

Lust: Every company on the planet is turning its gaze towards the mythical creature called big data.  Companies want to collect as much data as possible in the hope that they will find something of value. Unfortunately, many of these companies have no idea how to implement their big data strategy. The desire, or lust, after such data and the money and power that it comes with is gaining mainstream acceptance. 

Gluttony: This is data hoarding, pure and simple, and is something that has been happening since, well, forever. Nobody thinks about archiving data; they only think about how one day, far in the future, they may need it again and when they do, they want it available immediately. The end result is companies carrying useless data forward year after year.

Greed: We lust for more data, and we are gluttons to consume and store as much as possible. This leads to greed in the form of needing bigger and faster hardware to process all the extra data that lust and gluttony have resulted in. How many times have we thrown hardware at the problem?

Slothfulness: As data accumulates, our systems get slower. Queries run longer. Server tape backups take longer than a day. There is so much data that you may decide to have your database backups become less frequent, or non-existent, or shift the task to the server team who decides that SAN snapshots are good enough (PRO TIP: they aren’t). Before you know it, your disaster recovery plan isn’t adequate for your business needs, but you don’t usually find out until it’s too late.

Pride: Along with hubris, pride serves to undermine everything you have built by instilling a false sense of security with regards to your data. As you collect more data, your security concerns should be growing as well. Every day that you don’t end up on the front page of the newspaper is just another day you got lucky.  

These sins are committed by  every shop, across every team. Each data professional has committed one or more of them. And you cannot mitigate them by telling management that your development teams are agile, or that you are installing DevOps as a way of making everything better. No, these threats, these deadly data sins, are only fixed through a culture shift usually brought about by experience through some type of disaster.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike. If you find examples of these sins in your shop, take action now.