In these challenging times, as more and more businesses embrace their digital transformation journey, the role of data becomes critical. Often, people confuse data quality with data integrity. These are two different concepts. Data quality is one thing but ensuring that the data is reliable, accurate, and relevant goes above and beyond data quality. Data integrity enables businesses to gain actionable insights that will help them grow and increase profitability.
What is data integrity? Data integrity refers to the process of gathering, maintaining, storing, or deleting data without compromising on data consistency, reliability, and security throughout the entire data lifecycle. Data integrity helps businesses stay compliant with applicable regulations and guidelines like South Africa’s POPI Act and the EU’s GDPR. Over the past decade, it has attracted a great deal of attention.
Ways to Ensure Data Integrity
As many data transactions are automated and computerised, businesses have a great responsibility to ensure there is no data loss, theft, or any compromises throughout the data lifecycle. How can companies ensure data integrity? By being proactive and implementing certain controls.
9 Ways to Maintain Data Integrity
- Perform Risk-Based Validation
Validate systems that will help you stay GDPR and POPI compliant. Ensure that protocols are in place for meeting required data quality, and data is reliable, relevant, and secure.
- Apply Quality Assurance Measures
Have a dedicated team of experts constantly check your quality control protocols and procedures. Performing regular checks will verify that every employee who uses the data complies with the relevant data governance policies and maintains confidentiality.
- Have Strong Access Management
A robust access management system ensures data integrity. Giving access to appropriate users who can view or make changes to the data, increases a company’s data visibility and integrity. In the event of a data breach, it is crucial to identifying the source of the problem. That is why access management is essential for maintaining data integrity.
- Implement Error Detection Software
Manually auditing your systems, validating your procedures and managing access to your data can be a time-consuming process. And it’s not even the most efficient solution. In fact, it can be prone to error, and anomalies can get over-looked, compromising your data integrity. The right automated error detection software can verify all important documents and data to ensure accuracy, relevance, and quality.
- Encrypting your Data
Encryption is one of the best practices for data security. It can ensure that your data remains secure, even in the case of unauthorised access, since without an encryption key attackers will find it difficult to infiltrate or manipulate information. This way, even if there is a data breach, cybercriminals will not be able to access any sensitive data.
- Implement Multi-Factor Authentication
Gone are the days when simple passwords would suffice. In this digital era, as cybercriminals and cyberattacks become more and more precise, destructive and dangerous, you need more than a strong password. You need to implement Multi-Factor Authentication. This will ensure that even when a cybercriminal does gain access to one set of login credentials, without access to that user’s email address, cellphone or fingerprints, they will still not be able to access your business’ information.
- Educate Employees
While many companies always focus on what they think of as bigger and more important projects, like finding the right software provider, performing regular data audits, meeting compliance requirements and so on, they do not focus on smaller, yet powerful, strategies to maintain data integrity. One area that can have a huge impact is educating employees. Businesses need their employees to advocate data integrity, understanding its importance and ensuring that it is a top priority. Training can help them to quickly and effectively highlight all activities that might compromise data integrity, and avoid falling victim to them.
- Backing Up Data
Even small businesses that do not deal with sensitive data should have a backup and restore option for their website, documents and information. When you deal with sensitive data, always make sure you have a strong backup and restoration plan in place. In the event of data loss, breach, or system failure, data can be restored seamlessly if you have a backup, ensuring that your operations can continue uninterrupted, and that your data cannot be manipulated irreparably or held at ransom.
- Select Appropriate Systems and Service Providers
Always choose the right technology service provider and systems that comply with the prevailing data regulations to help you meet your business data integrity needs. Ensure that you know which software your service provider is using and get a certificate of proof for the same. Go the extra mile and understand your provider’s work culture, previous work, and read through their testimonials.
Gathering data, analysing it, and storing it is not a challenge at all in today’s world. But maintaining data integrity is. Businesses collect so much data, and they need to ensure data quality and integrity while saving, storing, and managing it. Over the last decade, there has been a sharp increase in the number of manual errors and cyber threats. All organisations must have the right data integrity strategy in place to save time, effort, energy, resources, & money.