What to Do if You’re Hoarding Too Much Data Online

Online disk space is cheap and getting cheaper. In many cases, it’s even free. Just like the backpack that novice hikers feel they must fill up, it’s easy to start filling up your online storage with data that you think you should keep ‘just in case’ – but may simply be useless. Digital hoarding like this started locally on your PC disk drive and USB sticks. Is the current trend to shovel digital junk from local storage into online storage just mirroring recent changes in technology – or is there greater cause for concern?
Where’s the Dividing Line Between Online Data Backup and Hoarding?
Valid online data backup includes those irreplaceable family photos and HD video clips that you upload to the cloud for safekeeping; or regular backups of important, evolving data at work. Backups like this have value to you; they are also typically part of an organized plan to safeguard your data. By comparison, hoarding is the reverse. The information stored has no real value to its owner, who accumulates stale version after stale version. And there is no rational plan to justify that growing pile of ‘stuff’.
The Challenge of Dealing with Digital Hoarding
Physical hoarding of collections of last year’s magazines, old lawnmowers, broken iPods and tins of vegetables is visible. On your PC, the only real signs of data hoarding may be slower disk access or warning messages about memory maxing out. In your cloud storage account, you may see even less – just how many gigabytes you’re using or how many files you’ve uploaded. Click, upload, save, done: it’s easy. However, it’s also a vicious circle. When you don’t know what’s in that unorganized, hoarded information, you add more files to it because you can’t be sure if those other files are already saved or not.
The Benefit of ‘Un-Hoarding’ Your Online Data
What good is having a ton of data if you don’t know what you’ve got or what it’s good for? Quality of information is often more important that quantity. By limiting your online data storage to information you know about and that you can organize correctly, you can recover the usefulness of that information. And if you’re tempted to save something ‘just in case’, remember that most information (with some exceptions like family photos or business emails) is available via search engines anyway, when – or if – you need it.
First Steps to Deal with Online Data Hoarding
Start by saying ‘no’ to the temptation of ‘just in case’ storage. You can also take steps to get rid of data that is currently attracting digital dust. Candidates for elimination may include: temporary files (.tmp); old versions of current files that you haven’t looked at since you saved them; and collections of mp3 files, e-books or digital video clips you downloaded from the Internet and never read. Or move digital junk suspects out to online folders with names like ‘DELETE_BY_30_06_2014’, for example (pick an appropriate date). If you haven’t consulted any of those suspect files by the date indicated in the name, there’s a strong case for zapping the entire folder. That way you stand a good chance of ending up with a slimmer, but more useful collection of data; and greater confidence in the real value of your online storage of information.