Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with data regulation laws. You may not rely on this information as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.
In 2017, The Economist published an article titled "The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data."
Regardless of your business size and reach, your data is probably one of the biggest assets of your company. Data helps business owners and employees improve customer experience, make informed decisions, and have a complete overview of the business.
But while big companies have entire IT teams to guard data, for small and medium-sized businesses it's another story.
When a startup begins to collect leads and business contacts, the person in charge of managing that data and keeping it safe it's usually a marketer, a salesperson, or a customer support agent.
In those cases, they have to step out of their comfort zone and learn about data protection. If you are one of those professionals and you are stuck in the technical jargon, here are some basic terms and best practices to help you out on this quest.
What Is Data Protection?
Data protection encloses best practices, safeguards, and rules to protect personal and business information. When data protection is effective, your company should be able to control who accesses, modifies, or shares data and for what purpose. It should also ensure that the database is secure and the data can be recovered if it's ever lost or compromised.
What Are Data Protection Breaches?
Data breaches happen when an unauthorized user accesses an area of your IT system (that's any software you are using). The impact of data breaches varies, but when it reaches sensitive data, it's considered an important security problem.
Personal data, passwords, social security numbers, or banking information can be appealing for cybercriminals. Keep in mind that data breaches not only affect big corporations – there can also be data breaches in smaller companies.
Among the common causes of data breaches are: weak passwords, outdated software, and malware attacks.
About Data Regulations
Data regulation laws define local and international rules around data. The best way to ensure data protection is by making sure your company complies with those laws, such as:
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Protects personal data for citizens and residents of the European Union and European Economic Area.
- Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA): regulates the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in Canada.
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): For the state of California in the United States.
It's important to be aware of these regulations and check if there are others that apply to your business. Next to that, you need to educate your employees on how to follow these laws.
Strategies to Keep Data Protected
To keep data protected, you must keep in mind multiple factors, such as your technology ecosystem, type of business, database size, etc.
A more complex software stack will have more complex challenges. But overall, there are some general strategies or best practices that can help every type of business to ensure data protection:
Include security measures across your entire data management plan
The Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) is one of the most popular structures to get started with a data management plan. It allows you to identify the different stages through which your data 'flows' across your organization: data collection, storage, maintenance, usage, and cleaning.
Across all these stages, you must take security measures to manage your data in a secure way.
Overall, the golden rule of your data management plan should be: The less manual work involved, the better.
You can use technology to integrate different databases and automate workflows so data can travel through the different stages with as little manual manipulation as possible.
If you are working with cloud-based software, Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS) and in-app integrations are good options. Operations Hub, for instance, can sync contact data between HubSpot and other apps. You can easily identify all the locations where a user's data lives, so if a contact asks to be deleted from your records, you can easily comply with their request and delete their data from all the sources.
Create a Data Backup and Data Disaster Recovery Systems
Even with the highest standards in cybersecurity, the best technology available, and trained employees, you must back up your data from either local or cloud databases.
Backing up implies copying data and storing them in a safe location where they can easily be recovered in case of a data breach, software failure, natural disaster, etc. As with any other process related to data management, it must maintain your company's security level.
Backing up data is an important part of your data continuous maintenance. It must be done on a regular basis and, if possible, in several locations, such as external drives and cloud storage containers.
Keep Your Database Protected
Is your database cloud-based or do you have a physical server? This makes all the difference when it comes to protecting your data. Cloud servers are easier to acquire, manage, maintain, and upgrade. However, when it comes to data security, some experts believe that local servers are still more secure, while others sustain that well-implemented cloud applications are the way to go.
For cloud servers, the biggest threat is having data breaches. But if your company is using a local server, an important safety tip is to be aware of the temperature. A server room should always be between 68°and 71°F (or between 20° and 21,6°C). You also must keep a good ventilation system between the server racks so the temperature stays the same within the server. Variations in temperature can seriously damage your database.
Create a contingency plan for data breaches
When a breach affects data protection, your company has the responsibility to notify the individuals involved, as well as the authorities. You can only do your best to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The suggested steps to follow vary depending on the type of data breach, but the aftermath usually involves:
- Evaluating the impact
- Investigating the cause
- Rebuilding and reinforcing security
- Reviewing logs
- Instructing employees
- Working with the legal authorities
Quick Security Tips for Data Protection
Next to the general data protection strategies that should be part of every business' data management plan, here are five simple yet powerful things you can start doing today to protect your business data:
- Two-factor verification: Make sure you and your employees' identities can be verified via a text message code, and authenticator app code, or biometrically (facial recognition, fingerprint, etc.)
- Secure passwords: Too hard to remember? Use a safe password manager such as LastPass or Okta. Sharing passwords with your team is also a lot safer through these channels.
- Log out and turn off: Especially if you work remotely, don't make it easy for thiefs or hackers to access any of your devices.
- Double-check the apps you use: Go to review sites and consult with experts before downloading an app. Lots of malicious software look good at first sight.
- Have your databases in sync rather than exporting and importing: Avoid sharing CSV files, even if it's within your company. Remember the golden rule: The less manual work involved, the better. Alternatively, use integration.
Ensuring the basics of data protection is crucial, it demands responsibility and constant follow up. However, it doesn't have to be a technical hassle.
Technology is constantly evolving to make it easier for you to guarantee data protection. Being mindful of security increases the quality and value of your databases, and your customers and business partners trusting you with their information will be thankful.