In IT, I've adhered to two conflicting maxims: hard drive storage tends to grow faster than you can fill it, but users will always expand their usage to fill the available hard drive space. The first is what drives the concept of "disk is cheap; don't throw stuff away, just search for it." And while that's a great idea in theory, what happens in practice is people do follow the advice, and are always asking for more storage because they keep filling up disk space with stuff they might have otherwise deleted.
This is what brings us to the "digital hoard" of today. No one bothers to delete old data anymore. And why should they? With features like desktop search, cloud, (de-)duplication, etc. you don't have to carefully organize your data into named folders and sub-folders. Instead, you just save the file wherever it makes sense at the time, and you can always find it later by doing a search.
But a recent article in Baseline Magazine, Hoarding data wastes money, highlights the costs to saving every bit of data. They look at the digital hoard from a legal perspective: While specific operational costs are appreciable, the most visible costs can be legal expenses. Even if a company had not been obligated to keep unused data, if it still has that data when a legal matter arises and a legal hold is issued, there is an obligation to preserve and produce relevant or potentially relevant information during discovery in that litigation. In essence, the legal hold trumps the company's right to dispose of information not needed for specific operational or regulatory requirements.
I'll skip over their arguments in this case, but it's worth reading. I feel safe in summarizing their points as "if you don't need to keep it, don't." The article gives a few recommendations on how to sort through stuff (hire an outside consultant who can advise what to keep, and what to delete), through the author's personal lens as a lawyer.
The article closes with the benefits of reducing your digital hoard: Such e-housecleaning efforts have a tremendous ROI. Some clients have been able to take thousands of backup tapes off hold, and others have freed up significant percentages of their available file share space--all of this in addition to avoiding discovery and data breach costs.
We do live in a time with almost unlimited storage, thanks to cloud storage offerings such as Box, Dropbox, Google, and other services. But at the same time, we need to be wise stewards of data. Are you keeping your own digital hoard?