Expert Tips for Data Management
by Andrew Nelson
Benjamin Franklin wisely counseled the people in Philadelphia on the dangers of fire when he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We live in an age where critical data is stored primarily on hard drives, flash drives, cloud storage, servers or accounting systems. Compromised or lost data can be disruptive or catastrophic to a business. So how can we “prevent” fires in our business and anticipate threats surrounding our data, rather than waiting for them to happen and clean them up after the fact? The following are a few data management tips to consider.
Regardless of how your data is being stored, it is always a good idea to do frequent and consistent backups. Having a rollback point in the event of loss will give peace of mind. Work with your IT department to determine the best way of doing backups, or a simple calendar reminder works if you don’t have the resource of a dedicated IT team. Just as important to the backing up of data is ensuring that the backups can be restored with a high degree of confidence. Often it makes sense to create a disaster recovery plan with drills and necessary steps to restore data and get up and running again. Have a plan for your data management, just in case you need to use it.
With multiple users and older companies, there are often “cobwebs” in systems or files. It is a good idea to periodically clean up or archive unused reports, files, etc. Archiving these to a folder that can be accessed later may be prudent if they are still valuable, but only get accessed once a year for example. Working with your IT group, have them tell you when items have been accessed and who accessed them. This is a great starting point for reviewing what can be cleaned up. It is also helpful to have a simple and consistent folder directory methodology and file naming convention. Work with the users of the data to find a mutually agreed upon way of organizing things so they can be found in the future. Try to mitigate users storing information in obscure places that others won’t know about. Having a central repository keeps things organized and will reduce the amount of time replicating things that have already been done or searching for files.
One of the challenges with management is security. Confidentiality is critical to the reputation and credibility of a business. An introspective look at stored information and deciding what needs to be limited to specific people is a good place to start. Next, determine the best way of securing that data. Some suggestions are to use encryption or password protection on directories and files. This is also a great time to ensure that your business is PCI compliant (if applicable) and that customer information like social security numbers and credit card information are secure per required standards. Data breaches can often be disruptive. Protecting other customer data should also be reviewed regularly to ensure compliance with any local or international regulations.
These are just a few examples of things that can be evaluated on a regular basis to anticipate and create a plan for data related disruptions to the business. It isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list but is a starting point of your data management. If you need help, call us at (801) 225-6900 today! We’re happy to help.