Data is at the core of every business. It is impossible for a business to operate in today’s modern, digital world without producing, managing, analysing and storing data about their operations, their services and products, and their customer base. But it’s also just as easy for data to become overlooked, mismanaged and, at worst, compromised.
This is why every business, no matter what industry they are in, needs to have a data protection strategy that they can follow.
What Is Data Protection And Why Is It Important?
Data protection is all about ensuring that the information your business captures is stored, accessed and managed securely and protected against threats.
Data security may not be a new challenge for businesses, but it is one that has become ever more critical. Threats to your intellectual property and the personal information in your possession are increasing on a daily basis – from malware, to data leaks and breaches that share your employees’ and clients’ personal data online, compromising their privacy and making them susceptible to a wide range of attacks.
Having a data protection strategy in place does more than just ensure that your data is safe. It safeguards your reputation as well, since data breaches can have a significant impact on the trust that your clients place with your company. And, on top of that, it ensures that you are compliant with regulations like Europe’s GDPR and South Africa’s POPI Act, reducing the financial impact for your business if a data breach does occur.
10 Data Protection Strategies To Keep Your Business Secure
Knowing that you need to protect the information in your possession, and knowing where to begin are two different matters. But putting together a data protection strategy does not need to be a complicated endeavour. Let’s look at 10 key steps that you can take to protect your data. Including these in your strategy will ensure that your data is protected against most threats, and that there are measures in place should your data ever become compromised.
1. Manage Your Data’s Lifecycle
Having a deep understanding of how data in your business is created, where it’s stored, when and how it’s archived, and when it gets deleted is an important first step for any business wanting to form a data security strategy. The better this is understood, the more prepared you and your teams can be for securing your information.
2. Minimise And Manage Risk
Risk is inevitable. It’s part of doing business. But the way that you manage risk is what sets you up for success. There are various ways of reducing and mitigating the risk to your business, from preparing for the worst case scenario, to training your team on how to react to threats, to transferring risk to external IT providers who are better equipped and experienced in dealing with data threats. But one of the first steps in mitigating risk is understanding the threats to your data, and creating a strategy around dealing with those threats that best suit your business needs.
3. Data Backup & Recovery
One excellent risk mitigation strategy, and one that is essential for continuous data protection, is to regularly backup your data and to have a recovery plan in place for if disaster strikes. This is a simple method of protecting your data against, for example, ransomware attacks. Ransomware often involves cyber criminals corrupting your data or removing your access from it with the intention of bringing your operations to a standstill until a ransom amount is paid. When you have a backup and recovery system in place, the threat that these attackers pose is substantially reduced, as you can restore your data without needing to give into their demands.
4. Manage Access To Your Data
Every person who has access to the information that your company holds increases the risk to your data. Managing access to ensure that the right people have access to the information that they need to work efficiently, but that this access is limited to only the data they need greatly reduces this risk. If, for example, an attacker were to gain access to one employee’s login credentials, their access would then be limited, rather than all encompassing.
5. Ensuring Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability
On top of managing who has access to your data, and making sure that the right information is available to the right people when they need it, one of the biggest data threats that you need to consider is not just external attacks. Internal IT threats can also compromise your data, whether intentionally or through human error. This is why it’s important for your teams to understand the role that they play in maintaining the privacy of personal data. Train your teams to ensure that communications are encrypted wherever possible to maximise confidentiality, and to take care when managing sensitive information to ensure its integrity.
6. Effective Data Storage
There are plenty of options out there for data storage, and part of your data privacy strategy should be making sure that the right data is stored in the right way, and is accessible to the right people. On-premises storage may be the most secure in terms of reducing the number of people who have access to it, but can also be more difficult to secure in terms of management, maintenance, updating and upgrading. It would also only be a useful storage system when at least some of your team are based in the office. After all, data is only useful if it is accessible for the people who need it. If you are storing data that doesn’t need to be accessed at all, for any reason whatsoever, then you should reconsider step one and better manage your data’s lifecycle to delete information that is no longer necessary.
7. Keep Your Data Compliant
A big factor to consider when managing your data storage is ensuring that it is stored in compliance with local regulations. If you are doing business with companies within the EU, your data needs to follow the guidelines set out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), even if your company itself is not based in Europe. The same applies if you are working with South African clients – your data will need to be stored in regulation with the Protection Of Personal Information (POPI) Act. Knowing which guidelines apply to your data storage, and making sure that the storage itself is in compliance, and that your data is managed according to these laws, will help you to avoid penalties.
8. Maximise Data Security
While every step above goes a long way towards ensuring that your data protection strategy will be effective, there are additional security measures that you can put in place. On top of training your teams in best practices and how to recognise and avoid data threats through cyber hygiene practices, you can also put alerts in place. These will ensure that if a threat is detected, your IT team will be aware of it as soon as possible, and have the best possible chance of mitigating the threat before it results in a data leak or a data breach.
9. Put Procedures in Place
By making sure that your data protection strategy is well documented through regulated procedures, you can ensure that it is as effective as possible. It’s one thing to want to protect the information that your company holds, but without proper procedures, every step that you take will be off-the-cuff, and can result in contradictory measures being taken without your even realising it, actually putting your data at further risk. By documenting your processes and procedures, you’ll make it easy to follow your data protection strategy for years to come.
10. Continually Monitor & Review Your Strategy
Ensuring that your data protection strategy is effective is about more 1than just putting measures in place and forgetting about them. You need to regularly and consistently monitor your strategy and review your security measures, ensuring that the latest best practices are being followed, and that your teams are well trained to handle any potential data threats.
Are You Ready To Take On Your Data Protection Strategy?
Before you jump into putting a strategy in place, there are a few best practices that you may want to consider.
Make Sure Your Clients Understand How Their Data Is Managed
By ensuring that you understand your customers’ requirements, and that they know how your data is stored and processed, you are setting yourself up for a successful relationship. This transparency will help to boost your reputation and increase the trust that your clientele place in your company.
Don’t Try To Hide Behind Data Breaches
This comes down to transparency once again. When a breach has occurred, trying to hide it from your customers can result in further damage to your business and theirs. I’m not saying go and shout it from the mountain tops, but if your data security has been compromised, it’s important that your customers know about it. This way they may be avoid to avoid, for example, email attacks that claim to come from your addresses.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication, And Encourage Your Customers To Do The Same
Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a simple process, but it’s one that can save you and your customers significant heartache. It’s just not enough to have a strong password anymore. Passwords can be guessed, hacked, leaked. But if you have MFA, it doesn’t matter if an attacker knows what your password is. Without access to your cellphone or your fingerprints, they still won’t be able to log in and access your data.
Conduct Regular Risk Analyses
I mentioned earlier that understanding the risks to your data is a critical part of your data protection strategy. But risks come in many forms, and can often include the technologies that you’re putting in place to protect yourself. This is why it is critical for businesses to conduct a risk analysis on a regular basis, and the best way to do this is often through a third party, like your Managed IT Services provider. Having an outside party look at the technologies that you’re using and thoroughly analyse them for weaknesses, updates and maintenance can see your business preventing data breaches before they have the opportunity to occur.
Let Solid Systems Help
At Solid, we have been helping businesses to protect their information for almost two decades by putting cutting-edge technology and security measures in place. Get in touch today to talk through your data security needs, request a risk analysis or an IT security assessment, or to learn how our Managed IT Services can boost your business’ cybersecurity.