Don’t get bit by zombie cloud data


The internet never forgets, which means data that should have been deleted doesn’t always stay deleted. Call it “zombie data,” and unless your organization has a complete understanding of how your cloud providers handle file deletion requests, it can come back to haunt you.

Ever since the PC revolution, the concept of data deletion has been a bit misunderstood. After all, dragging a file to the Recycle Bin simply removed the pointer to the file, freeing up disk space to write new data. Until then, the original data remained on the disk, rediscoverable using readily accessible data recovery tools. Even when new data was written to that disk space, parts of the file often lingered, and the original file could be reconstructed from the fragments.

Desktop—and mobile—users still believe that deleting a file means the file is permanently erased, but that’s not always the case. That perception gap is even more problematic when it comes to data in the cloud.

Cloud service providers have to juggle retention rules, backup policies, and user preferences to make sure that when a user deletes a file in the cloud, it actually gets removed from all servers. If your organization is storing or considering storing data in the cloud, you must research your service provider’s data deletion policy to determine whether it’s sufficient for your needs. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook if a data breach exposes your files to a third party or stuck in a regulatory nightmare because data wasn’t disposed of properly.

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