By Anand Ramdeo, founder of Planned Departure www.planneddeparture.com
Only a decade ago most of us would never have even considered that our digital lives would eventually have real financial, not to mention emotional value. Yet recent research by PwC revealed that the sum of unclaimed digital assets in the UK amounts to £29 billion.
This same research points to the fact that 32% of consumers still keep paper copies to store their information, which only goes to show how much more rapidly technology is advancing compared with our adoption rate, a problem which is compounded by the fact that even paper trails can get locked in the cyber world.
The speed of technology is outstripping the rate at which laws dealing with digital assets are developing. As we become increasingly reliant on digital assets, handling the realities of the digital afterlife becomes a pressing issue, particularly as most of us have no established system in place to enable family, friends or colleagues to access our digital content after our deaths. This means that a huge amount of paid-for, or sentimentally-valuable, digital content could be lost forever.
In the case of businesses, the loss of digital information may not only mean a financial loss, it can also create an intangible loss of goodwill with customers, particularly if documented knowledge and insights are wiped out and sensitive trade information is revealed.
Which is why planning for the protection of digital assets should now be a key imperative in both business and financial planning. Individuals and business owners alike must take greater responsibility in safeguarding their virtual data. Where once identity theft seemed to be the greatest threat, a more insidious threat is now disruption on a potentially huge scale.
Different businesses will have their own unique sets of digital assets, from customer data to presentations, white papers, and financial spreadsheets, so there is no one formula that fits all requirements. However, taking an inventory of all digital assets is the first step towards managing the issue at hand. This involves everything from where the assets are located to how they are accessed. Regardless of whether the digital assets can be measured as a tangible value or as a consequence of loss, the fact of the matter is that digital property is multi-faceted and needs to be stored and managed as carefully as traditional assets
Despite spending over £50 billion a year on goods and services online we are still far behind when it comes to protecting these assets. This may have something to do with the fact that we (falsely) believe they are safe and permanently accessible, a shift in awareness on this front is urgently required!
Anand Ramdeo is a director and co-founder of Planned Departure. He has a Bachelor of Engineering degree from MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur, India, and Masters degree in Information Systems from Kingston University, London. Anand is an expert in the field of software testing, consulting widely with organisations such as IBM Rational, Amazon, BBC, Channel-4, BSkyB and Camelot. He has also been a guest speaker at many IT conferences across Asia, Europe and North America.