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March 10, 2017

The Great Data Divide: Baby Boomers vs. Millennials

The great data divide - with Baby boomers one side, and Millennials the other - is getting bigger and bigger. Chris Talbott from Veritas looks into the isssue, warning companies to get ready for the data deluge.

By Ellie Burns

In today’s world, data is created in every communication, interaction and transaction and is then used to make decisions and justify actions. Data is also a catalyst for transition and growth. It’s not surprising people want to save their valued information, but what is surprising is just how much data people save and how that amount fluctuates between different generational groups.

Every person on the planet generates a digital footprint. However, that footprint looks vastly different between Baby Boomers and Millennials. This is due to the vast differences in how these generations use technology, create data and save information. Over the last seven years, data at a file level, rather than a database level, has grown by 39 per cent year-on-year. One key reason for this change: the average Millennial stores almost twice as much data as a Baby Boomer, and a whopping 30 per cent more than the average member of GenerationX.

Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips. Every digital move of a Millennial is saved, from texts, screenshots of Snapchats, WhatsApps and emails, to panda videos and online shopping histories, the list is endless. In addition, it’s now easier than ever to save everything we do digitally. Along the way, all that saving creates multiple data instances. Just writing this piece has created multiple versions of one body of information, something that has become normal when documents are digital rather than stacks of paper – part of today’s digital transformation. Filing cabinets have been replaced by the cloud, thank-you letters have been swapped for emojis and photo albums now exist for all to see on Instagram.

We are part of an increasingly multigenerational workforce made up of Baby Boomers born from 1946 through to the mid 1960s; GenerationX born from the mid 1960s through to the early 1980s; and Millennials born early 1980s to the late 1990s. Millennials make up the largest proportion of the workplace. Their demographic is estimated to grow seven per cent over the next 10 years while boomers will decline by 13 per cent and GenerationX will remain flat.

Given their digitally-powered daily lives, it also comes as no surprise that Millennials store more total information, but the difference is significant compared to other parts of the workforce. As Millennials boast an increasing presence in the workplace, businesses should prepare themselves for a data deluge and start to anticipate what this might mean for their storage needs and budget.

The recent Data Hoarders report exposed the implications of increasing data growth rates for businesses. First, there is cost. Storing all this data comes with a price tag, and the price is only going to go up as data hoarding becomes the norm. Then, companies must think about security. As so much data is created and stored, it’s easy to become complacent about policing such large volumes of data at every turn. Already, 73 per cent of respondents surveyed in the Data Hoarders report admitted to storing data potentially harmful to their organisations.

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The digital storage tendencies of Millennials are not isolated to one country or region; their habits appear to be similar throughout the globe. When asked about what they store on their machines, Millennials were 27 per cent more consistent across nationalities in their answers than GenerationX and 59 per cent more consistent than the Boomers.

It’s critical to point out that while their storage habits may seem excessive, Millennials generally are not doing anything wrong – at least not intentionally. They are simply using and embracing the technology at hand, just in considerable volume.

Nonetheless, data hoarding is a universal problem and one that can’t go ignored if businesses wish to remain secure, efficient, as well as protect their brand and their bottom line.

The great generational data divide may appear to be stating the obvious, but the implications will be huge for businesses. As Boomers and Generation X are gradually replaced by Millennials, the quantity and variety of data downloaded will increase exponentially, making IT infrastructures creak at the seams. Data storage costs and risks will accelerate unless action is taken to expose what is being stored, who is accessing it and when, and whether it should be retained at all.

It’s clear the volume of data is only going to increase, and do so dramatically. It’s time for companies to embrace this fact and figure out how to address the issue head on. There are data management solutions on the market today that can provide complete 360 visibility and oversight of both casual data storage as well as formal retention such as archiving. Organisations can utilize this software to ensure policies are in place and, that data hygiene is understood and practiced. Not only will this play an important role in achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance, it will help keep needless storage (and with it needless spending) in check by showing exactly what is stored and where.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking. The sooner businesses realise how to navigate the deluge of data that’s coming, the better prepared they can be.

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