09/03/2015 10:21 GMT | Updated 02/05/2015 06:59 BST

It's Time to Go on a (Data) Diet

It's hard to pin down exactly when 'data' became something that interested a wider audience, but today data, and the discussion around it, is everywhere.

Data is no longer an abstract term reserved for scientists. It's our most precious family photographs, our favourite music, and the text messages we've exchanged with loved ones. It's our Tweets, grocery lists, our preferred route home from work, and last night's TV, saved to watch when we finally get a free minute.

It underpins the most buzzed-about topics in the corporate world, from 'Big Data' to the 'Internet of Things', but is equally central to our everyday lives. We have computers at home, at the office, and in our pockets, and with them we create, exchange, and process data almost non-stop. The result is that there is an awful lot of data in the world.

But do we need all of it?

Bridging the upcoming data capacity gap between the volume of information we're producing and the amount we can easily store will be no easy task, so it's crucial that we get smart about data storage at home and at work. Put simply, we need to go on a data diet.

What does a data diet look like? The critical thing for both businesses and consumers alike is to think hard about what data we really need. Are those old email archives crucial? Do you really need that five-year old draft of your CV? Is keeping all seven variations of that family photo from last year absolutely necessary?

The answer to those, and similar, questions is 'probably not'. So, to help us collectively get smart about storage, we've put together a few tips for ridding yourself of excess baggage, and start storing the right data in the right way:

  • Stop taking storage for granted. Educate your workforce, and family, about the need for smarter thinking about what data can and should be kept and what can be deleted.
  • Spring-clean your systems. Get into the habit of periodically scanning hard drives to identify what can be discarded, helping you to free up disk space quickly.
  • De-duplicate. Avoid keeping multiple copies of documents and other files. By encouraging centralised storage, you can help users quickly identify if something has already been saved.
  • Manage backups more effectively. Backing up data is important, but needs to be done sensibly. Be realistic about what data you really need keep a copy of.

Although these suggestions won't solve the data capacity problem that we face, they will provide some much-needed slack as storage becomes a scarcer resource in the near future. They'll also help to cultivate good habits that will be of long-term benefit, both at home and at work. After all, what good is data if you've nowhere to keep it?