Five ways to clean up your data ‘junk' and save energy

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

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This is important as digital storage space 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.

To put that  more vividly: the electricity required to store around 3,500 emails (of five MB each) produces around as much CO₂ 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 data requires 3kg of CO₂. To make this clearer, here are some other figures:  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 do 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 version 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 own 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 positive benefit that it also ensures less confusion over which version is the right one at the end of the process. 

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 teams 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 of time. 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 of time. 

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 future, to minimise the time and effort required to clean up your digital storage moving forwards. 

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 which 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 to stay on top of this moving forwards. 

Avoid unnecessary regulatory risk

Apart from the sustainability aspect, there is also a legal aspect that needs to be considered when it comes to avoiding data chaos. Depending upon the type of information being 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). 

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 you 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.

As an accredited Microsoft Cloud Solution Partner, Konica Minolta can help you to make the most of the Microsoft 365 suite of digital apps and tools (including SharePoint Online, Teams, and OneDrive), to ensure your cloud storage is operating as efficiently as possible and helping you to avoid the potential issues that chaotic data can cause or contribute to.