Data is the lifeblood of modern business. It defines legal compliance, drives critical decisions, and is a library of important information within an organization. But many organizations neglect their data, letting it grow into a discombobulated mess that no longer allows the business to perform its best.
On the flip side, well maintained data can give your business a competitive advantage. Well maintained data can help ensure your business is in compliance with regulations, has everything available for your team to make swift decisions, and does not tether you to any company that can potentially withhold your data.
In this blog article, I will be discussing why it’s important that you maintain your own data as well as the mechanisms that define good data maintenance.
What is Maintaining Data?
Data maintenance is having data that is accurate and up to date. It also implies the data is readily available and safe from disasters like ransomware or hardware failure. Data maintenance ensures a high level of accuracy of all records you keep.
Mechanisms of Data Storage
Historically the only way to really make sure you had well maintained, and available data was to make sure all systems in your organization were centralized and you had a secure hosted environment. But in 2023, cloud and SaaS solutions have become viable places to house your data, and still have ready access to it. Cloud and SaaS companies have started to understand how important it is that companies have access and can maintain data records, which is why they have made it easier to migrate and export data. Cloud and SaaS products have also grown a lot in respect to how well they behave with APIs. Now, you can sync data from multiple services or locations into a single tool or have that tool sync data to your other systems.
Local (On Prem):
Local or On-premises setups mean that your data is at least majority stored locally on either servers or computers. Local storage is an excellent option for businesses that need to maintain tight security, work in conditions without strong internet, maintain compliance, or simply don’t want their data stored with other businesses.
When properly maintained, on-premises data can be some of the most accessible there is. There is no custodian that can set rules for what data is accessed or what is shared with the custodian.
The cloud is a method of data storage where data is stored remotely in servers either from a third party or hosted within a data center. Its greatest advantage is that data can be accessed from anywhere. Applications hosted in the cloud remain always online and can easily be accessed via web browser or remote login tools.
In 2023, cloud has become the go to method for storing, and distributing data. Cloud is especially important for businesses that have data meant to be accessed by external users such as web applications, forms, databases and more.
Cloud’s biggest advantage is that it allows data to be accessed from anywhere. This adds extra accessibility. Plus, the cloud creates a centralized place to sync data to which allows many businesses to maintain their data much more efficiently than an on-premises setup.
SaaS (software as a service) is a method of software distribution where access to software (and its respected cloud hosting functionality) is provided for a regular fee, usually monthly or yearly subscription.
Using SaaS for data maintenance was very limited for a long time because SaaS is generally only good for maintaining specific data for a specific platform. But syncing data between SaaS applications via APIs and services like Zapier has allowed SaaS platforms to become a viable place to store, and access data. Plus, SaaS businesses are becoming much better about letting business export their data from the SaaS product to cloud or on-premises solutions.
The Advantages of Maintaining Data
Winning businesses maintain their data. There are so many advantages to having data that is up-to-date, well organized, and readily available. Here are the main advantages to maintaining your data:
Businesses that maintain their data and are vigilant about how it is stored and used protect not only the privacy of the business but employees as well. For example, a business that prefers to keep their data as secret as possible will opt to keep data locally. When well maintained, the business can operate completely without the need of third-party platforms like cloud providers or SaaS. If all the data is kept in house, employee interactions and business data is kept secret.
Ensure Data Accuracy
IF data is maintained properly, it will ensure that data is as accurate as possible. Accurate data will allow the business to stay in compliance and be agile in decision making.
It might seem at first that maintaining strong data integrity at first would cost more. That makes sense given that you will likely need to have staff dedicated to this task, and invest in the proper resources. But having inaccurate, poorly maintained data can cost your business greatly. For example, if you are in healthcare HIPAA violations are about $50,000 each (there are usually multiple when charged) and max out each calendar year at $1.5 million. Another example would be if data is maintained and a record needs to be found, how much time (and thus wages) would it take for your staff to locate the record? Maybe you are preparing a showcase for a huge prospect. If you maintain your data it will take less time to prepare everything.
If you maintain your data backups will have far more use than just being a tool of last resort. Viable backups can be used to restore to any point and can be used casually by the company if needed. Furthermore, lets say there is a disaster that requires backups from a specific period. If your data is properly maintained the backup data will be accurate for that point in time and any additional data from the future can be migrated over, saving potentially days in downtime.
Businesses that maintain their data are at a distinct competitive advantage over businesses that don’t. Businesses with well-maintained data are more agile, have better historical data to make decisions with, and are ready to examine new opportunities faster. Plus, businesses with better maintained data generally perform with more organization and efficiency.
Well maintained data isn’t necessarily more secure. A business can maintain their data but not have the proper security to match. With that said, the same businesses that invest in maintained data are also the same ones that tend to invest in security. A perfect cross over is well maintained backups which allow businesses to recover from disasters like ransomware attacks.
Well maintained data is generally segmented and access is limited only to those that should have it. This is because businesses that maintain data only want it coming from reliable sources. Limiting access to data keeps it more organized and as a result is itself an advantage of well maintained data.
Mechanisms to Maintain Data
There are almost limitless methods you can employ to make sure data is maintained. Here are some suggestions that are easy to implement:
Having an Assigned Individual or Team to Care for Data
When every person in your organization has another job that requires their immediate attention, maintaining proper data is the last thing on their minds. A perfect example is a sales team that does not maintain their CRM entries.
It can be difficult to rally everyone around maintaining data properly, so the best course of action is to hire an individual whose responsibility it is to care for data. Usually this would be a systems admin or data entry clerk who can certify data and make sure everyone is contributing accurate data.
Your business’ systems should limit who has access to what tools and data entry devices. For example, the sales team should have access to their CRM but there is no reason they should have access to the ERM. This will ensure those that are knowledgeable about their role contribute quality data.
Keep Records Using Proper Tools (CRM, ERM, etc)
To maintain data integrity you must invest in the proper tools. Tools like CRM, ERM, databases, etc allow you to easily input proper data, then have a place where it is easy to read and available to the organization.
Regular Backup Schedule (and multiple backups)
Keeping a regular backup schedule is one of the most important things you can do for the health of your business. Not only do backups allow you to recover from unforeseen disasters like ransomware attacks, but backups can be restored so you have data from different points in time. You can use this to make sure data is always available. And if you are a field like medical, you will be required to keep records and backups for multiple years.
Record Important Credentials
Recording important credentials means that the organization has a way of knowing, and distributing important login and access. This will ensure that employees are not opening up extra accounts to perform actions, and if those credentials are shared with the broader organization, you know those employees are not hiding secret data access.
Maintain Hardware, Software, and Cloud
Whichever system your organization uses to maintain data, make sure it is maintained. This means if you own infrastructure make sure hardware is monitored and regularly refreshed when needed. Hardware failure equals data loss. For software, make sure you are syncing proper records and updating when needed. Finally, for cloud, make sure you are keeping all dependencies updated and are up-to-date with billing. Sometimes cloud providers halt services the minute billing is not up-to-date.
Always Make Sure Latest Data is Uploaded (rsync, RDP, FTP, etc.)
When you finalize data you want to have safely stored, make sure to upload it to whatever service you are using to store data. For example, if you need to move completed files to a cloud server make sure to finalize your work with an FTP session. You can also use tools like rsync to make sure data in folders is up-to-date and synced between multiple locations.
Organizing and maintaining data can be difficult for organizations, but it is extremely important. Maintaining data allows your organization to stay organized and competitive. Your organization will almost certainly be in compliance data wise, and you will have backups of data that can help you recover from disaster or simply fetch old records. Hopefully this article opened your eyes to all the ways you can maintain your own data and the advantages of doing so.
ZebraHost offers robust cloud solutions for businesses that want total control over their data. ZebraHost does not sell data, or access your servers without explicit permission. You can view our cloud pricing here.