We all know that, whatever size of house we have, sooner or later we’ll run out of space. At least that’s what will happen to most of us, except those infuriating people who are so well organized that they take time to work out what they don’t need then throw it away or take it to the charity shop.

So it is with data in business. But the problem with businesses is that the people come and go, while the data remains the same. This means that the new people, unless they are extremely thorough, often cannot say which of the data left to them by their predecessors is vital, and which may be safely discarded. Since data storage is cheap and getting cheaper, nothing is ever discarded.

Where’s the harm in that?

It enables the managers to say, with pride, that they have ‘terabytes’ of data, which makes them feel important. But, unless some way is discovered of separating the wheat from the chaff, the rubbish will clutter up the system for ever, and grow until it overwhelms the good data. What can be done? What’s certain is that nobody in the IT department will offer to tidy it up – unless they are very brave or foolhardy. Sooner or later they’ll delete something that will not be immediately required, but will be discovered to be vital three months later.

The only way then to clean the database is to start another. Think of this in terms of moving to a new house, while continuing to use the old house. You transfer the obviously important information to a new database, and run it in parallel for a while until you are aware of any potential problems. You then turn off the old database and hope for the best. Because you’ve started from scratch, and because the new database is completely understood by the people who set it up, it will work.  So businesses need to do ‘phoenix’ style rebirth every few years simply to discard rubbish.

But then what happens when you need to compare old data with new data? In many cases it turns out that you’ve lost it completely – all you have left is what you’ve extracted to put into spreadsheets and on paper. That’s where Azquo comes in. We can take the data from both databases into our own system, and all our generic reports work on the combined data – they don’t care where the data originated.

The good news is that cleaning your database does not mean losing your old data – it just means that you can have available all the data that matters while gently burying the rest. It may, of course, mean that some of those ‘terabytes’ softly and silently vanish away, but that should be a matter of pride.

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