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Dealing with Legacy Data

Without experience and specialist tools, finding and safely removing legacy file data is practically impossible. The technical challenges are significant, but it is the organizational aspects; the wills and wants of the file owners, that present the greatest obstacles for even basic data hygiene.

Northern has a proven solution for these challenges.



How Do Northern’s Customers Deal With Legacy Data?

Northern offers a quarantine and delete process where files are classified, target classes are moved to a quarantine and held there for a pre-determined period (when they can be recalled), before they are finally deleted.

Northern has seen high levels of success when customers employ this strategy in two parallel workstreams.

Acting centrally on legacy data hotpots and clear policy violations.

Providing self-service to trusted users who are close to the data.

With this approach, customers achieve both short and long-term effects; central actions on hotspots give very short time-to-value, and decentralization builds acceptance for continuous data stewardship.


What to target

What Files are Commonly Targeted?

Redundant, obsolete, and trivial files that are being kept beyond legal retention requirements. These files hold no current value. They can contain outdated and misleading information. They can contain internal financial, Intellectual Property, or trade secrets. They can contain sensitive personal information of past or present suppliers, customers, or employees.

Common targets for cleanup include:

Hotspots of legacy files…

  • Entire Home Folders connected to accounts that do not exist in Active Directory.
  • Entire shares that are only accessible to administrative accounts.
  • Entire sites that contain no files modified in the past three years.
  • Common shares that have been migrated but are still in active use (failed migration).

Distributed trivial and poorly located files…

  • OST, PST, and OLK files.
  • AVI, M4A, MP4, MKV, MOV files with phrases like 1080pWebRipBRRip, or DivX in the name.
  • VMDK, VHD, VHDX, VDI, HDD, and GHO files stored in common shares and sites.
  • Files containing PII data (matching content against a word list) stored outside of dedicated systems.



What can be Achieved?

As an example, during 2023 one of Northern’s larger customers quarantined and deleted nearly 250 Million redundant files and file versions. A massive positive impact for their risk posture and costs. The work was a collaboration between the owners of on-prem and private cloud file Services, the owners of public cloud services (M365 and Teams), the central DPO team, and regional Data Privacy Officers out in the business. The work continues into 2024, with new file categories being targeted and new appraisal and disposition services being established for data owners.


Getting Started

What is Needed to Get Started?

Technical Prerequisites

Exact hardware requirements can vary, but a deployment of NSS normally consists of one Windows application server to serve the console interface of the solution, an SQL instance on a shared SQL Server, and one additional application server for each 100TB that will be in scope for clean-up initiatives.

Besides hardware infrastructure, the software’s services must run with an account that has elevated privileges in the target file systems and, when M365 is in-scope, must have access to a Microsoft Graph App with privileges on the tenant or target sites.

Stakeholder Sponsorship

The key prerequisite is an engaged senior management. Getting focus on legacy data accumulation can present a challenge. Northern has helped teams overcome this obstacle by providing three core resources:

Clear identification of opportunities for cleanup.

A proven method to safely remove unwanted files.

A strong connection to the cost and risk reductions that will be achieved.

Northern’s approach is to support teams in creating ‘Action Proposal’ documents. These 4–5-page documents describe a specific opportunity that has been identified in the customer environment (e.g., remove orphaned Home Shares), the method proposed to take the opportunity (e.g. quarantine > hold > delete), and the impact expected if the stakeholder agreed to take that opportunity. The language used in these documents is easy to understand and difficult to argue against.

Software Subscription and Services

The easiest element to put in place, new customers will need to engage with Northern and purchase a subscription for Northern’s software (NSS), as well as any services hours they might need for preparation of Action Proposal’s etc.

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Take the first step

Contact Northern and book a meeting with the Solution Architect team; collect all the necessary detail to build your business case for action!

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