Data drives almost every critical business function, from decision making to analytics. That’s why maintaining both data security and data integrity are an important part of keeping your business running smoothly. Data security is the hotter topic in the IT world at the moment, and as a result data integrity is in danger of being just an afterthought. However, it’s just as important to maintain good data integrity if you want data that you can rely on to inform your decision making.
What is Data Integrity?
Data integrity is mainly concerned with how reliable, accurate and ultimately valid your data is. It’s the practice of ensuring that you maintain these qualities over the entire life-cycle of your data. Whilst this all may seem a little vague (and it is), what it mainly comes down to is ensuring that your data doesn’t get corrupted at any point during storing and processing.
Why Should You Care About Data Integrity?
Picture this: The CEO requests that the Head of each department provides information on spending over the course of the previous financial year in order to decide what the future budgets will be. If the data the CEO receives is inaccurate, the decision they are going to make will be the wrong one, which could have a disastrous effect to the business. Almost every decision made in an organization is based on data, so the data itself have to be valid.
There are many potential failures of data integrity that can be damaging to a business, including malicious insiders, accidental error and system crashes. All of these result in unexpected changes to potentially critical data and could lead to losses in both revenue and reputation.
3 Ways to Improve Data Integrity
Data integrity can be threatened in numerous ways, as alluded to in the previous point. Improper maintenance of your systems, excessive levels of privileged access and lack of basic security monitoring leave yourself open to these threats. Let’s look at a few ways in which you can improve the integrity of your data.
1. Have Proper Validation Processes in Place
However, you collect your data or whoever you get it from, you should take care to put it through rigorous testing to ensure it’s valid. There are many different types of data validation (too many to go through here) but the goal is always the same; ensuring that your data has undergone sufficient cleansing to improve the quality.
2. Clean-up and Back-up Your Data Regularly
Two things here that will help you ensure data integrity; removing duplicate data and taking regular back-ups. Duplicate data can complicate a database and, if this data is sensitive, increases the risk of valuable data being stolen or leaked. There are numerous tools in the market that help you to clean-up duplicate records at a low cost. Similarly, regular backups will ensure that you are protected against any ransomware attacks or data loss incidents.
3. Audit Changes to Data and Permissions
One important part of ensuring the validity and accuracy of data is maintaining an audit trail in which you can easily determine what changes are made, when, where and by whom. This way, if changes are made to either the data itself or the permissions surrounding the data, you can take action immediately to mitigate any potential damages that may arise. File server auditing solutions, like LepideAuditor, allow you to keep track of how your insiders are interacting with sensitive data through real time alerts and pre-defined reports.
Good data integrity is an ongoing battle and requires just as much attention as data security. Don’t let it be an afterthought!