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What is Data Sprawl?

The rise in data volume, velocity and variety are causing trouble for companies trying to ensure constant information availability. Unfortunately, the causes of data sprawl are some of the fundamental building blocks of today's enterprise environment, meaning it's not going away. For instance, affordable and new applications to create, capture and store information are creating siloed and confusing data environments that are larger than ever before and very hard to untangle. IT departments need an answer to this situation, and turning back the clock on overall IT development and application deployment is clearly not an option. Instead, they will have to think about how to liberate the data from the present environment.

Data's progress becoming unstoppable

Information is everywhere, and businesses have become adept at capturing it in the past few years. Information is largely digital, and even unstructured content like images and blocks of text can be captured and turned into analytics fodder. As nearly anything and everything can be used to improve decision-making, organizations are keen to save it. This is where low-priced commodity storage comes in. It has never been easier to find a place to put data in terabyte or petabyte amounts, and firms have been stocking up on equipment that can do just that.

All of this data is a challenge for the IT department, because it's still incumbent upon them to make information available to the rest of the firm. Business users have to call up very specific pieces of content as part of their daily responsibilities or in response to legal action. This means they need an efficient way to search the architecture and dig up the relevant facts. This gets harder with every new silo that springs up, however, and each terabyte of unstructured content poured into the cheap storage hardware. The IT team must find a way to make content highly searchable, even as the size and complexity of the environments they are responsible for spiral ever upward.


New enterprise content search methods

Helping employees find what they need can be accomplished in one step through indexing. Once information is indexed, new enterprise search processes can find it, even if it remains unstructured. Technology like ViaWorks from VirtualWorks can give users a window into content including text within image files, which they can detect directly instead of relying on metadata. With a simple search interface in place, the process of digging through the company's architecture is suddenly easy again, no matter the enormity of the archives.

Getting ready for a data tidal wave is pertinent. Depending on the industry, it may have already begun. This information will not necessarily be structured, and its file format may not fit along sensible lines. This wild new environment is the natural habitat of data sprawl, and taming it is a unique and important task for today's IT departments. Successfully instituting new enterprise search features could turn these huge resources into an asset. Without such assistance, however, they may just slow businesses down. Anything that interferes with daily operations must be addressed at once, for agility's sake.