As the amount of data in the world grows, firms that fail to manage and leverage their archives effectively could be missing out on a revenue opportunity worth as much as $10 million.

This is according to a new study from International Data Corporation (IDC) and Iron Mountain, published on Wednesday (June 24th), called Mining for Insight: Rediscovering the Data Archive.

The researchers found that a well-defined data archive process will deliver value to a business via two avenues: cost savings, plus added revenue from monetising those archives.

More than 1,000 senior managers and executives were surveyed for the study, all of whom were involved in data archiving for firms with 500-plus employees.

Over half reported having made cost savings of $1 million or more over the past year as a result of data-driven risk mitigation and avoidance of litigation, with the top 21 per cent cutting costs by more than $10 million. More than two-fifths (44 per cent) slashed $1 million from their operational and capital expenditure using big data insights, and the highest-ranking 18 per cent saved more than $10 million.

Furthermore, what Iron Mountain described as "more striking" was the scope for added revenue presented by an effectively managed data archive. Some 39 per cent of the firms made top-line gains of $1 million or more thanks to their efforts, with the top 15 per cent securing $10 million-plus. On average, the firms saw an additional $7.5 million in new revenue streams from their data archives.

However, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the respondents were of the opinion that their data archiving activities were delivering maximum value, leading the researchers to describe the discipline as "a real blind spot" for some decision-makers.

Only 38 per cent of the firms were using their data archives for business analysis, for example, despite this having the potential to help them better understand their markets, improve their products and services, and boost customer engagement and satisfaction.

Fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) of the respondents acknowledged that they could leverage their archives more effectively, most of whom estimated they could extract two or more times the value they realize today.

The survey also found that 88 per cent of firms lack a uniform process for archiving across data types, and, faced with pressure from upper management to roll out big data programs, 40 per cent simply archive anything and everything.

"There's a real disconnect between the value people think they're currently realizing from their archives and the potential additional revenue they could stand to gain by simply managing their data more effectively," commented Sean Pike, program director for ediscovery and information governance research at IDC.

"However, organizations of all sizes and across all industries can expect to see an uptick in revenue and cost savings by revisiting their archives to fulfill business objectives."

The researchers concluded with four recommendations for firms to realize the full potential of their data archives: to appoint a chief data officer; to develop information maps of all data sources and repositories; to implement a holistic, consistent archiving strategy; and to consider employing a third-party vendor to help with data management.