At its core, the idea behind a solid backup and disaster recovery strategy for your business is a simple one. It’s a way to make sure that all critical data is backed up and stored in a way that it can be easily recovered, even in the event that your organization suffers a catastrophic disaster. If your physical place of business were to suddenly burn to the ground, your backup and disaster recovery plan should enable your company to quickly restore its data and IT systems and pick right back up again at a new location like nothing ever happened.
Which, of course, begs the question – just what is critical data for your business, anyway?
It’s no secret that some applications, along with the data they create, are more important than others. That work that you’re doing for a client – the project that you and your teams have been working on for months – is of paramount importance. That flyer that you’ve been creating for the next company picnic? Decidedly less so. But they both exist on the same servers and, without a regimented plan designed to not only identify but also categorize data, are treated the exact same way.
So how do you identify critical data for your business? Thankfully, the answer to that question is a straightforward one. But you will need to keep a few key things in mind.
Identifying Critical Data for Your Business, One Step at a Time
By far, the most important step that you can take when it comes to identifying all the data that is critical to your business involves mapping that data whenever possible.
Go through all the various data sources at your disposal – from servers to local machines and everything in between – and find out A) which of your users are dealing with confidential information, and B) who that information is being exchanged with.
Think about things in terms of the various departments within your business. What information does the customer service department need to function? What information does human resources depend on? What data does management need, versus those in financial administration, versus those in sales or product development? Where is that data being created and, more importantly, where is it being stored?
The answers to these questions will give you a better indication of what volume of critical data you’re dealing with and, more importantly, where it is currently being housed across your enterprise.
Next, consider this larger question within the context of what your actual responsibility is to the data in question. Data protection is regulated by a wide range of different factors, including but not limited to things like legislation, agreements with clients, non-disclosure agreements and more. Essentially, you need to ask yourself the question “what obligation does my business have to protect the information we’re creating and sharing on a regular basis?” Anything that falls under the guidance of entities like those outlined above is therefore by default “critical,” and needs to be protected. Along the same lines, you’ll also need to assess the specific types of risks your business faces when operating in the digital era that we’re all now firmly entrenched in. It’s no secret that different industries face different threats when it comes to cyber security. If you were a business operating in financial services, for example, you’d likely face different types of attacks and threats than you would if you were operating in the healthcare space.
One of the keys to remaining protected involves coming to a full understanding of the situation that you’re a part of. Therefore, assessing your industry and business-specific risks – meaning learning what types of data that someone with malicious intentions might target – is one of the most important steps to keeping that information away from prying eyes.
Locking Down Your Data: Additional Consideration
In a larger sense, consider all the data that your business is creating within the context of the strategic business processes you’re trying to enable. There are some types of data that literally propel your business forward – it helps you release new products, gain an edge over competitors, empower your reputation and accomplish similar goals. Data that falls into this category would be considered critical and would therefore need to be given priority status.
Data that falls outside of that umbrella is certainly less important. That doesn’t mean you should outright ignore it – it just means that it takes a lower priority than that which meets the definition as outlined above.
Because of all this, you’ll want to start the process by looking at data that is directly related to core business functions like revenue generation, accounting, logistics and more. Even customer service and certainly regulatory compliance would be worth a closer look. Whenever it comes to categorizing data, ask yourself questions like the following:
- If I lost access to this data, would it result in lost sales or even lost customers?
- If this data were suddenly unavailable, would it end with financial and/or regulatory penalties?
- If this information were to fall into the wrong hands, would it damage my company’s reputation in a way that I may not ever be able to recover from?
- If the answers to ANY of those questions were “yes,” you’re looking at something that matches the textbook definition of critical business data.
Finally, once all of this information has been properly identified, you’ll want to take steps to classify it appropriately. Within this context, disk-based storage, off-site storage and cloud-based storage will always be the three key options that you want to consider.
Understand, however, that these are not “either/or” scenarios. More often than not, you’ll want to use a combination of these methods to set up appropriate redundancies to guarantee that your data is protected. Don’t just back up your data to a hard drive – also back it up to the cloud so that you have an additional layer of protection that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you.
This type of tiered approach lets you store data in the most secure, cost-effective and (most importantly) efficient way that you can. It also allows you to access that information quickly when you need it the most. Again, if your physical place of business were to suddenly get hit by a hurricane or some other form of disaster, it stands to reason that you would try to resume normal operations from a new location. In that case, hard disk backups wouldn’t necessarily be available but the cloud could get you up and running again wherever you have a network connection.
If your primary work machines were to get hit by a malware attack like ransomware, on the other hand, those hard drives could easily restore your computers back to normal working order – all while giving you the confidence that only comes with knowing additional backups still exist in the cloud.
Never forget that identifying critical data for your business is only one small part of remaining protected in the digital age. You also need to know HOW that data might be compromised and WHAT you must do to mitigate risk in those scenarios. Only then will you be able to truly protect yourself from those disasters that you can predict and, more importantly, those that you cannot.
Learn more about the importance of Data Lifecycle Management.
Outer Edge Technology: Protect Your Data, Protect Your Business
At Outer Edge Technology, we’ve been helping businesses like yours protect their critical data for well over a decade – and that is one trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We understand that when you’re talking about something as malleable as technology, troubles do arise – and try as you might, disaster can always strike when you least expect it. Therefore, the key to remaining protected doesn’t involve trying to prevent these catastrophes from happening.
Instead, it involves taking whatever steps you can to prepare yourself for when they do.
By offering our unique blend of IT expertise to those who don’t have or need the resources for a fully staffed IT department, we have dedicated ourselves to helping organizations like yours do precisely that on a daily basis.
If you’d like to find out more information about the steps you can take to identify critical data for your business, or if you have any additional IT questions that you’d like to address with an expert in a one-on-one capacity, terrific – we can help. Call 1-844-OET-EDGE or email info@OuterEdge.biz to we can discuss things in more detail. You can also feel free to fill out the contact form below to schedule a mutually convenient time to speak to one of our IT pros.