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Abandoned File Shares

Identify and Remove Abandoned File Shares


There is no benefit for the organization to store data that is never used and is no longer subject to legal retention – there is only cost and risk. When entire file shares are abandoned in this way, only containing obsolete and unnecessary data, they represent quick wins for any organization that can identify and remove them.

Northern’s software solution (NSS) can be quickly configured to identify these file shares and provide staff with a click-through process to remove them. Very large data footprints can be parsed, across geographical regions, and including multiple platforms (traditional on-premise file storage, SharePoint, SharePoint Online, O365, other cloud platforms, Exchange Online, etc.).

By removing file shares that only contain unused files, the organization will:

  • Improve information and infrastructure security
  • Reduce exposure to regulatory risk
  • Reduce risks associated with holding data belonging to divested business operations
  • Improve compliance with internal directives
  • Reduce costs and improve resource usage efficiency
  • Reduce complexity of migration and transformation initiatives

Northern is currently providing some of the world’s leading organizations with this type of solution, and enabling them to realize these values. Contact your Account Manager or the Professional Services team to schedule configuration in your environment.


File shares are created and used for specific purposes. Over time needs change and entire file shares can fall out of use; the data they contain is forgotten and neglected.

The organization can be exposed to unnecessary and unmanaged risks:

  • The more data an organization retains, the greater the risk – legal, reputational, operational, etc.
  • Access permissions might not be properly maintained – sensitive information may be exposed to improper groups
  • Data subject to internal policies or legal retention restrictions may be left unmanaged – creating compliance risk
  • Abandoned file shares may contain data that no longer belongs to the organization (as operational divisions are spun-off or sold) – a contractual breach and grounds for damages claims

The cost of handling this data is a waste of IT budgets:

  • Primary, secondary, disaster recovery, and backup storage is consumed by files which are never used
  • Staff are unknowingly investing time in protecting and maintaining access to these unused files
  • Migration and transformation projects are, unnecessarily, made more complex and expensive

This situation continues to exist in most organizations due to specific challenges:

  • Determining the criteria for when a file share is unnecessary can be time-consuming
  • Identifying target file shares in a large environment can be technically difficult
  • Preparing concrete and digestible information to decision makers can be time-consuming
  • It can be very difficult to enable decision makers to act, in a suitably efficient and effective way
  • Actions, if taken at all, can be point-in-time and not offer a long-term solution

Northern offers a way to overcome these challenges.

Northern Solution

The diagram and explanation below shows the workflow implemented in the organization, using NSS, to identify and remove file shares that only contain unused files:
  1. NSS Scans the file system to identify folders that only contain files which have not been accessed in recent years (seven years by default), and stores the results in the SQL database.
  2. IT Admins are notified when the scan is complete.
  3. IT Admins can view the results in the NSS Console web interface.
  4. From within NSS’ web interface, abandoned files are quarantined or deleted.

Key Risk Indicators Established

The number of file shares that have not been accessed in the last seven years, and the total volume of data stored in these shares, are established as a Key Risk Indicators (KRIs). These KRIs can be used to establish controls; requiring action when set thresholds are reached. They are also tracked over-time to allow comparison and measure levels of success.

The table below shows the tasks involved in implementing this Northern solution, the time required, and who is responsible to perform each task:

1Import configuration settings0.5 hoursNorthern
2Run analyses in environment and verify resultsVaries*Automated
3Determine which folders contain only obsolete data1-4 hoursCustomer and Northern
4Configure Quarantine if files will be quarantined1-4 hoursCustomer and Northern
5Delete/quarantine files that are obsolete1-2 hoursCustomer
6Measure success by calculating volume of deleted or quarantined data and numbers of files1 hourNorthern

* Expect scan speeds of approximately 2000 files per second. An environment with 100 million files will take approximately 14 hours to scan.

The implementation of this solution requires minimal investment by the
organization and, by identifying and removing abandoned file shares, the
organization will achieve real value.

  • Improved information and infrastructure security by the removal of files that may contain login information or sensitive network details
  • Reduced risk of legal non-compliance by the removal data that is beyond its retention period or no longer belongs to the organization
  • An improved ability to satisfy internal audits as the file system is better organized and more transparent
  • Costs are reduced as primary, secondary, disaster recovery, and backup storage is used more efficiently
  • Staff are able to focus their attention on data that is of value to the organization
  • Complexity and cost of migration and transformation projects are reduced
NSS DeployedVersion 9.91 or later
SQL DatabaseSQL Server 2012 or later
NSS Solution Area(s)Centralized File Service Management (CFSM)

More of what we deliver

Reduce risk

Security breaches, cyber-crime and data privacy regulation – your organization’s data will inevitably contain sensitive information.

Reduce cost

Storing your organization’s data is costly, especially when considering all expenses associated with housing the data.

Increase efficiency

Efficiency of those owning and being dependent of the data decreases as it becomes increasingly chaotic.

Corporate responsibility

Pressure mounts on all organizations to take more social responsibility – IT services, internal or external, need to incorporate capabilities facilitating CSR.
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Get started

If you wish to start using NSS to identify and remove abandoned file shares, please contact your Account Manager, or the Professional Services team, to schedule the first action: import configuration settings.

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