Five ways to clean up your data and save energy

| 14 March 2024

Digital Cleanup Day 2024 takes place on 16th March 2024 and encourages people and organisations to re-examine their digital world to ensure the infrastructure and systems they use are as organised, efficient, and compliant as possible.

Organisations face many opportunities by cleaning their data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) including reducing risks such as regulatory and security breaches.

Digital storage space also has a direct impact on sustainability, be it cloud storage or local storage, because the carbon footprint of data is not insignificant. For example, storing 1GB of data consumes 0.015 of kWh of electricity and 0.28kg of CO₂ emissions.
More specifically the electricity required to store around 3,500 emails (of five MB each) produces around as much CO as that from driving a compact car a kilometre and deleting 1,000 emails would give a carbon benefit of around five grams of CO₂.  

It Is not only the storage of data that consumes resources but also data transfer. For example, the process of downloading or transferring 1GB of data requires 3kg of CO. To make this clearer, the French television company France Télévisions has calculated that an employee with average email traffic produces as many greenhouse gases every day as generated by an eleven-kilometre car journey.  

Taking these figures into consideration, in 2019 German magazine Oekotest even claimed "An email is just as harmful to the climate as a plastic bag”. 

When it comes to cleaning up your digital space, you need to consider it in the same way as the physical world. Keeping unwanted or unused things takes up space and consumes unnecessary energy and resources. It can also make it more difficult and time-consuming to find the information you want.  

Here are our top five tips on how to clean up your digital storage and save energy resources: 
Tips for your digital clean-up 

1. Use cloud file-sharing solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint Online instead of local network drives 
You don't have to store several versions of a document - on SharePoint Online you only need one version that is shared amongst everyone. However, you can restore older versions at any time as they are stored in a compressed form in the backup and therefore require less storage space. 

Sometimes there are situations where several people need to give their input for a PowerPoint presentation (for example) and without using SharePoint Online everyone puts together their file and ultimately these files are merged. This consumes more storage than if everyone were working on the same file in SharePoint Online from the beginning.

Working with several people on the same document, no matter if it is a PPT, a Word doc, or any other document or file format, has the added benefit that it also ensures less confusion over which version is the right one. When sharing documents, it's essential to follow the company's data handling and access management policies.

2. Don't send attachments in emails, use the links from Microsoft OneDrive or SharePoint Online instead
When sending emails, rather than attaching a file simply share the documents from OneDrive or SharePoint Online directly as a link. Make sure they are shared beforehand. The recipients have direct access to the documents, which saves data volume when sending (without multiple clones of the document sent to every recipient) and does not tempt the recipients to download the attachments and save them locally, which would use further resources unnecessarily.  

This equally works when sharing documents with external recipients as with those within the same organisation. Internally, it is better to switch to team chats instead of emails anyway, so everyone is aware of whether a message/document has been received and seen. Like emails, it is better not to upload attachments, but rather to work with links on OneDrive and SharePoint Online. 

3. Set automatic deletions 
Helpfully meeting recordings from your Microsoft Teams meetings are automatically set to be deleted from Microsoft Stream after 60 days. You will then receive an email that the recording has been deleted, but you can also restore them directly there if you still need them. 

For all other documents, you can also set SharePoint Online to delete them after a certain period. However, this is not automatic as with recordings, you must set it manually. Furthermore, on SharePoint Online, all documents that have been deleted are automatically deleted from the recycle bin after a certain period. 

4. Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters 
Make sure you unsubscribe from any unwanted or unsolicited newsletters and promptly delete any of these which are already stored on your systems.

Also, be mindful of any electronic mailers or similar that you subscribe to in the future, to minimise the time and effort required to clean up your digital storage moving forward. 

5. Track down space-wasting documents 
Unimportant old files will often be stored without much thought of whether they will be needed again. This may be directly on your PC or mobile device, on a shared server, in cloud storage, or within your email or other messaging apps storage. 

Think twice about whether to store or delete files, emails, or other messages. Regularly clear your download folders by filing items that need to be kept and deleting those that don’t. This is particularly important with larger files like images and videos, but also consider smaller data files that are no longer needed - such as software update files, meeting agendas, etc. 

Many files may be duplicates of those stored safely elsewhere, in which case it is better to delete them rather than have duplicate access in two or more locations. Using the likes of SharePoint Online to store documents centrally will help you stay on top of this moving forward. 
Avoid unnecessary regulatory risk

Apart from sustainability considerations, there are also legal implications that need to be considered when it comes to avoiding data chaos. Depending upon the type of information stored (i.e., if it contains any personal data), keeping data that is no longer needed could expose your organisation to unnecessary regulatory risk (such as GDPR). Organisations should ensure clear data handling and classification policies are in place as well as the appropriate processes to ensure the policy is enacted.

Obviously keeping digital ‘clutter’ may mean that searching for useful data takes longer. This is an issue during normal data searches, but it is particularly problematic if you receive a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) which has time constraints under GDPR, or an information request from industry bodies, etc. 

How Konica Minolta can help your organisation’s Digital Cleanup 
Ensuring you keep your digital world clean is important and brings many benefits, so you need to choose an expert IT support partner such as Konica Minolta that will help you and your organisation to optimise your IT resources usage and be more efficient.