What are Data Silos? Tips to Prevent Data Silos.

Trillion megabytes of data is generated daily, so data is a critical and prevalent factor when it comes to business success. By 2025, Cloud storage data is projected to exceed 200 zettabytes. Do you know that readily available data gives organizations a competitive edge to make decisions. However, data silos is impacting this because the information is complicated and concealed in it which hurt companies causing security hazards and inefficiencies. Whenever the information is convoluted or hidden in data silos it can harm your business.

Understanding the meaning of data silos, its impact on lost productivity and many other variables needs to be understood because gaining data driven insights to make sound business decisions is vital for business growth.

To break down data silos fostering cooperation, modernizing infrastructure and embracing technology are necessary to break down data silos.

Let’s dig deeper and find out the impact of data silos in organizations and what can be done to rectify this issue.

What are Data Silos?

As per the definition “Silo” is a structure that holds a large amount of data like grain or wheat and when these are placed next to each other usually then silos store the items independently. The material within the silos is abundant and it flows freely but it is trapped. Similarly, data silos is the collection of data within an organization that is a stand alone group and information like word documents, media, review, customer information, metric, contact details and financial reports, are trapped because of data silos. It is challenging for employees to access this information.

It hinders them to search and analyze this data across the department therefore silos is not a good thing. For example, your company may have sales staff as well as marketing personnel. Those two teams use lead and customer data. However, if they collect that data separately, one team may end up with leads control information not available to the other.

But it is inevitable that different teams gathers up different information, and then this should be shared with one another (revenue operations). When they do not, it leads to data silos. That’s why integrated data is so important.

Why data silos are bad?

Along with human error, out-of-date information, and duplicate entries, data silos are a common source of friction in businesses and hinder optimal operation.

Decision-making is severely hampered by data silos, which ultimately prevents your company from growing. It makes a huge difference to understand exactly what they are, how they impact your team, and how to resolve them.

Because different teams and departments naturally have their own goals and priorities and frequently function separately, data silos are widespread in larger firms.

Origin of Data Silos and How Dangerous Is It?

The origin of data silos is complex and may factors are responsible for this which includes infrastructure, company culture and lack of technology adoption. Unintentional barriers that impede smooth data flow inside an organization, known as data silos, frequently arise without conscious planning. This issue slowly seeps into an organization’s structure as a result of several ignored problems or practical choices that result in a problematic framework.

Company Culture:

Company culture is responsible for creating and sustaining information silos. A company’s culture has a big impact on how likely data silos are to form. In departments where independence is valued more highly than teamwork, silos may unintentionally develop.

Departments may be hesitant to share data with other parties if they view it as a competitive advantage. Eliminating these obstacles and encouraging information exchange requires fostering a corporate culture in which the organization operates as a single unit with a common objective. Information silos can be established and maintained by company culture. If departments prioritize competition above cooperation, they are unlikely to want to share data.

Alternately, the root may not be as dangerous. A single picture of the data was not a shared goal until recently, and departments are frequently not used to sharing information. Employee behavior hasn’t shown that departments need to communicate, share, and analyze data as a result.

Company Infrastructure

Another common cause of data silos is company infrastructure. Before the advent of cloud technology accessing information required a chain of requests and attachments. No, because of technology it is possible and is standard for sharing information automatically. But, many organizations are not designed to support an open, transparent flow of information between different teas and departments. Unintentional data silos are largely caused by the organizational structure of a corporation.

Collaboration might be hampered by departments using different communication platforms or being physically apart. As businesses expand, many departments get data from multiple sources and conveniently store it in separate silos. These silos develop into restricted access repositories over time, which promotes departmental isolation and obstructs information sharing.

Integrated solutions or technologies

Similarly when there is lack of technology adoption data can be reinforced with silos. Technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) help organizations to search, access and filter the data so the data can be transformed to actionable insights. But, many organizations are not adopting new technology and even if these technologies are helping to enhance the overall operational efficiency 3 out of 10 companies do not have a proper strategy in lace for digital transformation.

This limited integration of software can cause data silos and teams usually use different software to fulfill different needs like storing data in tools which is inaccessible to other employees in another departments.

Different departments’ usage of disparate technological tools exacerbates data silos. The inability of these systems to work together seamlessly makes data sharing difficult. Adopting integrated solutions that enable seamless data flow throughout the organization is crucial. Even though every department could have different technology requirements, every attempt should be taken to combine them into a single platform wherever it is feasible, using cloud integrations to improve communication.

Meeting the Challenge:

Organizations need to proactively take into account the following tactics to prevent the inadvertent development of data silos:

  • Promote a Collaborative Culture in Your Organization: Encourage a culture in which sharing of data is a normal aspect of working together rather than competing with one another.
  • Encourage Technology Integration: In order to remove technology gaps, invest in integrated solutions and promote the usage of shared technologies across departments.
  • Adopt Scalable Solutions for Growth: Prepare for organizational expansion by putting in place scalable data handling solutions that can easily adjust to the changing requirements of the business.

Organizations may break down data silos and create a more connected and effective data ecosystem by identifying the underlying causes and taking preventative action.

How do Data Silos Prevent You From Seeing the Big Picture

Organizations were questioned by F5 in 2016 on the number of applications in their portfolio. According to 54% of respondents, their networks contain up to 200 applications. 25% stated they had up to 500, while 15% said they had up to 1000. Even between 1001 and 3000, according to 9% of respondents. An average of 508 apps are reported by other sources for each organization.

These figures astounded me. It gets intimidating when you even estimate NetOps and SecOps apps at a fraction of those. Can you imagine attempting to look into an issue and needing to go through each data silo by hand in an attempt to find pertinent information? (In actuality, many of you likely have.)

Identifying Data Silos

Within an enterprise, data silos are discrete collections or repositories of data that are maintained by various departments or systems. These divisions usually result from a variety of causes, such as organizational, cultural, or technological obstacles. The following are some essential traits of data silos:

  • Isolation: Information is kept separate and contained within particular departments, systems, or applications, which is what defines a data silo. The organization’s ability to share or access data easily is hampered by this isolation.
  • Limited Accessibility: Data in silos is frequently unavailable to other departments or systems because of their segregated structure. This inaccessibility impedes effective data use and cross-organizational collaboration.
  • Duplication: Data silos may result in information duplication. Similar data may be independently gathered and stored by several departments, which can result in duplication, discrepancies, and resource waste.
  • Incompatibility: Data silos may store and manage data using various formats, protocols, or technologies. It is difficult to integrate or combine information from different sources because of this incompatibility.
  • Low Data Quality: Data that is siloed may have problems with quality. Independent data management by departments increases the risk of mistakes, discrepancies, or out-of-date information affecting the overall quality of the data.
  • Limited Insights: It is difficult to obtain thorough insights or an all-encompassing picture of the company since data is dispersed among silos. Strategic analysis and decision-making are hampered by this constraint.
  • Barriers to Collaboration: Cross-functional teamwork is hampered and collaboration is impeded by siloed data. Departments may find it difficult to share knowledge or insights, which would impede overall creativity and production.
  • Security concerns: Each silo might have its security protocols and access controls, resulting in significant security concerns. Inadequate data governance between silos may leave confidential data vulnerable to hacking or illegal access.
  • Challenges with Data Integration: It takes a lot of effort and time to integrate data from several silos into a single format for reporting or analysis. This obstacle makes it more difficult for the company to extract meaningful insights from the data.
  • Effects on Adaptability and Agility: An organization’s ability to adapt to changes or shifting market conditions may be slowed down by data silos. A lack of cohesive, readily available data makes it more difficult to make decisions quickly and adjust to changing patterns or challenges.

Types of Data Silos

When one group inside an organization has exclusive access to a set or source of data, this is known as a data silo. Numerous circumstances can lead to data silos, such as:

●      Cultural: Rather than cooperating, staff may withhold information from one another due to rivalry or hostility across departments.

●      Structural: Data silos, particularly in large organizations, can result from a hierarchy that is divided by numerous tiers of administration and highly skilled personnel.

●      Technological: It’s possible that applications aren’t meant to complement or cross-reference one another. Alternatively, because a valuable program from another department was not acquired for their particular daily tasks, one department might not have access to it.

Common Causes of Data Silos or Why do they exist?

As businesses expand, data silos inevitably develop as a result of organizational procedures, corporate culture, technology, and other elements that either restrict or prohibit information exchange. In addition, whether on purpose or not, management may encourage a competitive atmosphere within departments, leading to redundant work and data and information flow insulation.

Within an organization, data, and information silos are typically caused by three factors:

1. Multiple applications and data sources

SaaS apps are used by many businesses to handle essential operations, and many of those apps don’t interface with one another directly.

2. Company growth

Fast-growing companies frequently experience scalability issues with their infrastructure and procedures, leading to ad hoc processes and application implementation across various departments. This results in a backlog of cleansing and integration work for data managers and IT, as well as data assets that are only useful to the teams that created them.

3. Structures within organizations

The difficulty of sharing data can be increased by bureaucracy, stringent access control measures, and permission schemes. Frequently, no one is in charge of enabling data sharing across the entire organization. Even though an individual may be in charge of each application, collaboration simply doesn’t happen when there isn’t a mandate to encourage teamwork for the organization’s overall benefit or establish collaborative processes that span the entire system.

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How do Data Silos Cause Business Loss? Why are they problematic?

It’s obvious that data silos are bad for your company, regardless of the reason behind this, but what exactly is wrong with them?

1. They present an inadequate picture of the company.

It is the responsibility of C-level executives to compile all of the company’s data. If you are the executive taking the calls, you are aware that your marketing and sales teams will report traffic and lead numbers, your accounting team will provide you with an expense and profit report, and your sales teams will discuss new business. What, though, ties all of that data together?

Operating a company with fragmented data is akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. You are unable to see your company from all angles due to data silos.

2. They create a less collaborative environment.

In the presence of data silos, each team ultimately operates independently. They work with only their data because they are the only ones having access to it. As a result, the organization becomes split. It is nearly impossible for teams to work together on projects, which prevents the organization from having a shared vision.

Managers, as we have stated, prefer to base their decisions on facts. Nevertheless, individual decisions made by team leaders will only be in line with overarching corporate objectives if they are able to grasp the wider picture and are provided with a small portion of the data.

It is exceedingly challenging to preserve a culture of openness and trust in settings where data silos are the norm. Rather, you may be fostering rivalry and competitiveness between teams as they concentrate on their micro-goals.

3. They lead to poor customer experience

Most businesses have several points of contact with their customers. These exchanges take place at various points in the buyer’s journey and over a range of channels. This implies that many teams—such as support, billing, sales, or marketing—will be corresponding with the same client or buyer.

Isolated data makes it simple to lose sight of your customer’s experiences with your business, and there’s nothing more annoying for a consumer than having to tell their story repeatedly to several parties.

4. They slow the pace of your organization

Having data silos is a waste of time. Data is separated inside teams as opposed to immediately being streamlined between teams. This means that teams will have to wait until they discover they need data that they do not already have, locate the data within the business, obtain access to it manually, and then do their analysis. The data might not be valid by the time you gather it.

5. They create a security risk

If appropriate security controls are not in place, employees who store spreadsheets, documents, and other data on their devices pose a greater security risk to the organization. Because it can be challenging to determine who has access to what information, data silos can make it more difficult to comply with data privacy rules.

6. They waste storage space

Precious storage space is wasted if every employee who needs identical data saves it to their corporate storage folder. As a result, you squander money on data storage that you don’t need or desire. If all of the organization’s employees could access the data on a single platform, it would take up far less space.

7. They threaten the accuracy of your data

One of your company’s most important assets is data. Having many means to gather data on potential clients, partners, and consumers raises the worth of your business. But the value you may derive from that data drops dramatically if it is out-of-date, missing, or incomplete.

As previously said, the longer the isolated data is left alone, the greater the likelihood that it will become outdated, erroneous, and useless. Furthermore, each team can have access to a different set of the same data. As a result, the data is skewed in the owner team’s favor.

Working with data silos leads to low-quality data since it’s hard to put these disparate bits of information back together. When you attempt to cross-check the information from several sources, you will undoubtedly find contradicting data if your data is not integrated or in sync.

Common Scenarios with Data Silos in an Organisation

Here are some common scenarios in organizations with data silo issues:

1. Issues with Technology

Without the right technology, divisions within a company cannot exchange data with ease. Businesses must have top-notch apps that can manage rapid information transfers and cross-references. Additionally, some teams might have had more training than others in the use of technology for data transfer, which could cause issues with the later groups’ access to the same data.

2. Growth in Organizations

There are situations when an organization develops too big and makes it harder for information to flow easily between departments. There can be an excessive number of divisions, offices throughout the country or the globe, or staff members, which makes them feel cut off from the rest of the organization. Organizations that become too big too quickly may also have structural problems. Data may need to be transmitted down the hierarchy in multiple steps.

Furthermore, a rise in employee competition may occur when firms get bigger. If they wish to keep control, some teams might not want to share data with other teams.

3. Decentralized IT Services

Organizations may occasionally offer decentralized IT services, enabling departments to purchase their hardware and software. This results in platforms, databases, and other applications that are incompatible with or disconnected from other systems in the company. Data silos can be accidentally formed when IT acquisitions are divided among teams or departments without first ensuring that they are compatible with the current systems.

4. Competitive Gatekeeping

There can be more rivalry among employees as companies get bigger. If they wish to keep control, some teams might not want to share data with other teams.

The business cost of Data Silos

It’s challenging to come up with any precise figures without going too far into the hypothetical. However, we might consider it in terms of how much you respect the time of your personnel and your company.

How much money do you lose each hour that your staff members are unable to work due to a downed network? Does that slow-moving, low-tech data theft go unnoticed every day? Or are your plans and tasks delayed every month?

You can determine the value of correcting inefficiencies for your organization by providing answers to these questions. Furthermore, data silos unquestionably have a significant role in inefficiencies.

Identifying data silos can be difficult since teams frequently function as separate entities inside an organization. Still, a few indicators can point you in the right direction:

  • Complaints about Data Availability: The existence of data silos may be indicated if teams voice dissatisfaction about the absence of data for particular business activities.
  • Lack of a Comprehensive Business View: Department-specific isolated databases may be indicated by the inability to locate data that offers a comprehensive view of the business.
  • Errors and Inconsistent Reporting: Data integrity problems may be indicated by reports of inconsistent data and unfixed errors across departments.
  • Uncertainty About Metrics: A lack of standardized data procedures is indicated if there is uncertainty about the metrics used by various teams.
  • Slow Data Accessibility: One sign of data silos is the inability to obtain data quickly.

Although it’s important to recognize these indicators, the task itself can be challenging. Ideally, the list of systems in operation and their corresponding users should be compiled by the IT department to serve as a starting point.

Techniques for Breaking Up Data Silos

Some managers believe that importing and exporting these databases will fix the problem, even if they are aware that separate databases give rise to data silos. Nevertheless, static approaches are inadequate since data is dynamic. The following are practical methods for escaping data silos:

  • Integration Software:

Disparate systems can be effortlessly integrated by utilizing integration platforms such as Mulesoft, Zapier, and HubSpot’s Operations Hub. The two-way data synchronization provided by Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS) guarantees data quality, automatic updates, and improved teamwork.

  • Complete Packages for Integrated Data Management:

Choosing all-in-one platforms or solutions facilitates data management unification for teams in charge of marketing, sales, and customer service. Platforms from the same provider reduce the need for manual data sharing and enable easier team communication by adopting standard terminology for data.

  • Programs with Native Integrations:

A few programs handle typical use cases by offering native integrations across platforms. These interfaces fill in gaps between accounting and billing software, CRM and marketing platforms, and more, despite their technological challenges.

  • Encourage a Collaborative Workplace Culture

Encouraging a collaborative work environment inside the company promotes data sharing. Employees are more eager to share data across teams in an atmosphere where diversity and inclusion-focused events, culture codes, and initiatives are implemented, as demonstrated at HubSpot.

  • Systematic Data Cleanup

Although it may seem overwhelming, going through out-of-date data is essential to building a functional data management system. This procedure makes ensuring the data is correct and up to date, which improves the organization’s overall effectiveness.

Using Technology to Prevent Data Silos

Integration of several business systems is key to preventing data silos. Organizations can overcome obstacles and get instant advantages by selecting iPaaS solutions or investigating native integrations within current apps. High-quality data flows smoothly, improving customer knowledge, enabling automatic updates, and bringing disparate teams together, all of which contribute to a better customer experience.

Teams, clients, the value of data, and the overarching business goal are all seriously hampered by data silos. Preventing and breaking down these silos requires utilizing technology to integrate disparate databases. Organizations embarking on a revolutionary journey towards a unified and data-driven future will see a clear beneficial impact on data quality and operational efficiency when they choose to use collaborative solutions.

Preventing Data Silos

Fighting data silos is essential for companies looking to handle data more effectively, cut expenses, and enhance overall operations. By using several strategies, separately or together, silos can be removed and a more networked data environment can be established. The following are crucial tactics or steps for breaking down data silos and improving data management:

1. Integration of Data:

One simple and efficient way to dismantle data silos is to integrate them with other systems.

Methods: Utilize data integration strategies like Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) to load data into a target system after it has been transformed and extracted from source systems. Examine alternate techniques including data virtualization, extract, load, and transform (ELT), and real-time integration.

2. Data Lakes and Warehouses:

The goal is to address silos, use centralized repositories to store large data and structured transaction data.

Platforms: For structured transaction data utilized in business intelligence, analytics, and reporting, data warehouses are perfect. Big data, encompassing structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data, is supported by data lakes for data science applications.

Silos are groups of firm data that are kept in different locations and are accessed by different groups. Put differently, data silos arise from the dispersion of information over multiple, incompatible locations.

Keeping your data in one location with a single enterprise-grade solution is an easy and efficient way to combat this. This ought to be accessible to all of your staff without requiring them to go through any additional steps whenever needed.

If your employees are unable to obtain the information they require through your means, they will create makeshift locations to keep it. If those temporary spaces prove to be more handy than your proposed alternative, they will soon become permanent. To ensure that no one is enticed to utilize your company-wide data system, it must be very accessible and simple to use.

As you select a course of action, pay attention to the demands of your staff. They most likely have fantastic ideas for features that will make their task easier or a set of specifications that will prevent silos. One of the best ways to prevent people from searching for solutions elsewhere is to give careful consideration to their needs.

3. Governance and Management of Enterprise Data:

Prevention and Elimination. To stop the emergence of new silos and get rid of those that already exist, create a thorough data management plan.

Components: Document assets, map data flows, and implement a blueprint for data platform development using data architecture design. Use an enterprise data strategy to match business operations with data management procedures. Create a strong program for data governance to enforce uniform data standards, cut down on silos, and put policies in place.

Use company guidelines as a check against data silos. When you have clear data governance policies, teams understand your expectations for good handling of the same. Every employee knows how to organize information effectively, so silos are not inadvertently created.

An appropriate analogy points up the importance of these policies. How about hiring a web designer? If you just tell them to design a website for yourself, the outcome may not be suitable. On the other hand, giving a professional services proposal that details your needs and what you expect in return sets out concrete goals for everyone. Both sides leave with their expectations fulfilled when all is done.

Moreover, telling employees how your firm’s data should be managed gives them the key to stopping silo-ing of information. Well-articulated guidelines serve as a map, telling people how to handle data and leading toward an overall ordered world of information.

4. Shift in Culture:

To successfully prevent the formation of data silos, take into account a change in company culture.

Initiatives: Include initiatives for cultural change in the creation of data strategies or data governance programs. In order to guarantee successful adoption across departments and business divisions, implement change management programs as necessary.

It takes a combination of technological know-how, strategic planning, and cultural change to eliminate data silos. Through efficient data integration, utilization of centralized repositories, application of all-encompassing data management tactics, and cultivation of a collaborative environment, institutions may dismantle compartmentalization and unleash the complete capacity of their data assets.

Case studies Illustrating the impact of data silos

Here are three case studies to understand the impact of data silos. These case studies demonstrate the real benefits of dismantling data silos, which include increased customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and better decision-making across a range of industries.

Case Study 1: Increasing Manufacturing Productivity

Data silos were reducing production process efficiency in a multinational manufacturing organization. While the production team kept manufacturing metrics in a different system, the procurement team maintained a separate database for supplier information. Delays in determining supply chain problems and streamlining production schedules resulted from the absence of integration.

Solution: The business linked logistics, production, and procurement data into a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This made it possible for departments to collaborate in real time and communicate more efficiently. Consequently, the organization witnessed a noteworthy decrease in production setbacks, enhanced inventory control, and heightened manufacturing efficacy.

Case Study 2: Improving Customer Experience

Data silos made it difficult for a global retail company to offer a smooth consumer experience. Dispersed customer data among multiple departments resulted in irregular correspondence and unindividualized support. Teams in charge of customer service, sales, and marketing did not have a single picture of consumer interactions.

Solution: To integrate client data from many touchpoints, the business implemented a customer relationship management (CRM) system. By integrating marketing automation tools with the CRM system, targeted marketing campaigns based on the preferences of specific customers were made possible. Consequently, the organization experienced enhanced client contentment, amplified revenue, and elevated client retention percentages.

Case Study 3: Optimizing Financial Decision-Making

Data silos plagued the finance and risk management divisions of a financial institution. Since risk assessments, compliance data, and financial data were kept in different systems, it was difficult to get a comprehensive picture of the organization’s financial situation. This made it more difficult to report compliance and make strategic decisions.

Solution: The organization harmonized data from many sources by implementing an integrated financial analytics platform as a solution. Real-time information on financial performance, risk exposure, and compliance status was available on this platform. Now that data-driven decisions were being made, the company could act quickly to ensure regulatory compliance and maximize financial plans.

Evolving Strategies to Address Data Silos

Following are a few strategies to address data silos effectively in an organization:

1. Cross-Functional Collaboration efforts:

Organizations are progressively putting cross-functional collaboration efforts into practice as a result of realizing that departmental isolation frequently leads to the emergence of data silos. This entails removing departmental barriers to collaboration and promoting a shared data ownership culture. Organizing joint initiatives, interdisciplinary meetings, and cooperative problem-solving sessions help to break down silos and advance a cohesive approach to data management.

2. Advanced Data Integration Technologies:

As a result of these developments, businesses are making use of technologies like real-time integration, data virtualization, and Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS). These technologies enable seamless communication across many data sources and go beyond conventional Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) procedures. Establishing a consolidated, cohesive data environment that facilitates information sharing and interoperability throughout the entire company is the aim.

3. Master Data Management (MDM) implementation:

MDM entails establishing a single, consistent version of important corporate data, including personnel records, product specifications, and customer information. Organizations may make sure that essential data pieces are standardized, synchronized, and available to all departments by putting MDM solutions into place. This approach eliminates redundancy, encourages data consistency, and lessens the possibility of contradictory information being kept in different silos.

4. Cloud-Based Data Platforms

The fight against data silos has seen the emergence of cloud computing as a critical enabler. Scalable and adaptable options for storing, analyzing, and gaining access to data from any location are provided by cloud-based data platforms. Businesses are moving their data infrastructure to the cloud in order to facilitate easy collaboration and integration. Real-time data exchange is made easier by cloud services, which also lessen the complexity of on-premises equipment.

5. Programs for Employee Awareness and Training

Organizations are investing in staff training programs that emphasize data literacy, collaboration skills, and the significance of dismantling silos in order to address the human aspect in data silos. Employee participation in the organization’s data integration initiatives can be enhanced by educating staff members about the effects of organizational silos and equipping them with the skills they need.

6. Data Governance and Policy Development:

Preventing the resurgence of data silos requires the establishment of strong data governance frameworks and thorough data policies. A data-aware culture can be fostered by providing clear standards on data classification, ownership, access limits, and sharing protocols. Frequent evaluations and audits guarantee compliance with these guidelines and offer valuable information for ongoing enhancement of data governance procedures.

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Final Thoughts:

For businesses, data plays two roles: it is an essential tool for making strategic decisions, optimizing operations, and ensuring security. But a big problem occurs when important information becomes trapped in silos, separated within divisions, product categories, or regions.

These silos create risks to overall performance by impeding development prospects, reducing organizational efficiency, and impeding well-informed decision-making. Knowledge workers lose a significant amount of time each week trying to find critical knowledge that is hidden in these silos, which reduces output and prevents a company from reaching its full potential.

Understanding the root cause is important for formulating effective strategies to remove data silos and facilitate seamless integration, allowing businesses to harness the full potential of their data.

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