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Mike Dunleavy is Head of Professional Services (Delivery) at Crown Records Management, a leading information management company with a presence in nearly 60 countries. Here he discusses the big data issues for 2015 and provides tips on how companies can stay ahead of the game.

So far, 2014 has been a year in which the proliferation of data has been a big talking point – do you expect it to slow at all in 2105?

“I think that’s very unlikely – the amount of data created is only going to increase, especially as technological advances tend to create more data rather than less. Look at wearable technology – people are now carrying equipment that produces all kind of data on their health and wellbeing. The internet of things will also create huge swathes of data as everyday items begin to ‘talk’ to each other. A fridge will be able to tell your phone when you are about to run out of butter and automatically order a new pack online from a supermarket. I think we have to be realistic and say the challenge of managing, storing and editing data is only going to get bigger for all businesses.”

So 2015 is likely to be another landmark year for records and information?

“Already there are reports that the digital universe is doubling every two years, that gives you some idea of how fast things are moving. There are lots of reasons why 2015 will be seen as a real year of change in the data environment, too, because new legislation, new technology and modern office trends are set to provide CIOs, office managers and HR directors with a very modern headache.”

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What key legislation are you expecting?

Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy

“The EU General Data Protection Regulation is expected to be ratified by European ministers during 2015 and it will completely transform data protection across the continent by the time it is enforced in 2017.

“Of course, the right to be forgotten has already been a hot topic as both Google and Microsoft rush to remove outdated personal data from internet searches in response a European Court of Justice ruling. But that ruling is just the thin end of the wedge. The EU aims to provide a Europe-wide regulation to replace the UK Data Protection Act and it will have big implications.

“It will offer citizens far more control over their personal data – including a right to ask for it to be deleted or corrected – and huge fines for companies that negligently breach the regulations. These could reach 5 per cent of global turnover, or 100m Euros if greater. A requirement for every company that handles data and has more than 25 employees to employ a Data Protection Officer is also likely to be included.”

So who is going to be affected most?

“Everyone. The new regulation will have a significant impact on all businesses that handle data – not just data controllers. So it is vital for companies to put systems in place early that allow them to know exactly what data they hold, how it was sourced, how to access it and how to edit it.”

What other changes are you expecting in the data environment in 2015?

“Mobile working is one to watch and we have seen it with our clients at Crown Records Management. It’s not a change as such, but a rapidly growing trend. The modern mantra seems to be that ‘work is not a place, it’s a thing you do’. There are already more than 4.2 million employees in the UK – 14 per cent of the workforce – who work from home. More probably take work out of the office periodically and that trend is only going to grow.

“The most recent legislation, in June 2014, means every employee in the country has the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment service. This right was previously only available to parents with children under the age of 17 or certain carers.”

Why should businesses be concerned? Mobile working is a good thing, isn’t it?

“It is, but it also comes with threats as information and equipment is taken out of the office. Businesses will need to ensure they set up secure systems that provide safe and structured access online to facilitate this development.”

Presumably the same goes for employees bringing their own devices into the workplace?

“Certainly; I would say the prevalence of BYOD is set to have a fundamental impact on IT in 2015. The number of smartphones across the world is predicted to reach two billion by the end of the year – so that gives you a clue.

“Having a BYOD policy is a basic requirement for any organisation. Policies should specify what devices are permitted, outline a stringent security policy, make it clear who owns which data, and detail which apps should be banned in the office environment.”

Any other areas or topics to consider for the year ahead?

“Data breaches will certainly be a big, big topic. In 2014 we had stories of customer data at Barclays being breached, patient records lost by NHS Trusts and concerns over NHS databases – I’m sure there will be more in 2015.

“It is estimated 80 per cent of data breaches stem from human error, so that is something for businesses to focus on. These can be mitigated by ensuring staff know what is expected of them and understand the consequences of failing to protect sensitive data. With fines about to increase, and reputations at stake, preventing breaches should be a priority.”

So, the big question is – can businesses cope with the proliferation of data in 2015?

“With so much data, the key will be deciding what to keep and what to destroy. Businesses will need to become skilled in identifying early what is a record and what is simply data noise. I would certainly suggest that starting 2015 with an audit – to distinguish how much data currently stored actually needs to be kept – is a sensible move. This can save money on storage and make systems quicker. Not every business will have the capability to cope with the volume of data it handles, and for some out-sourcing may be key. Whatever happens it looks like an interesting year ahead!”

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