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All data is not created equal – don’t store it like it is

With 95 per cent of businesses using cloud computing and 75 per cent of enterprises projected to use analytics by 2017, the race is on to compete in a data-driven world. Many businesses, however, find themselves hamstrung by collaboration, data storage and file transfers. While adopting the cloud solved immediate problems like cost-effective storage, it also compelled companies to collect point solutions, to the point that IT became a messy collection of applications rather than an orderly workflow. 

Without data infrastructure and a storage plan, the sheer volume of content created by the average business can render data difficult to use and, too often, vulnerable to attack. It is crucial to understand what is being stored, shared and collaborated upon, and how--then put systems in place to manage data accordingly. Reining in a sprawled data ecosystem is possible, if you take the time to rethink accessibility, security and organisation.

1. Accessibility: Control sprawled content

As the pressure increases to compete with other businesses, many companies and cross-departmental teams surge ahead without a clear plan for storing their content. Hasty decisions can result in the selection of different content management systems. For example, a marketing department might opt for Google Drive, while operations runs with an implementation of SharePoint. Now content is everywhere and not accessible to everyone who needs it.

Disparate solutions come with hidden costs. Content sprawl is a quick moving and unwieldy issue that can get out of hand fast if not addressed. The person who takes documents and spreadsheets home removes them from the business's data ecosystem and can accidentally create multiple current versions that have to be reintegrated to be sure everyone has the same, updated data. Or worse, they don't get integrated and the last person to put their file on the server overwrites everyone else's work.

Most businesses can’t adopt just any content collaboration tool to address these issues. With content both in-house and in the cloud, the solution has to be a hybrid, one that synchronises content no matter where it lives or which program created it. Users need secure access from anywhere on any device without having to duplicate data.

2. Accept—and secure—BYOD

Any service not subscribed to by IT poses a security risk. For instance, a company may not use Google Drive but employees do. This leads to trade secrets, financials and even HIPAA-protected data being stored on people's personal accounts. Data leaks like this have a high potential for damaging a business's reputation. Target is one of the most recent examples of a breach that happened years ago, but people still talk about it.

Careless handling of data and other assets can also lead to security issues. The security software that runs an office network doesn't always work the same on outside networks. From keystroke capture and SQL injection over public WiFi to malware infection, computers and other BYOD can bring malicious threats into the workplace network compromising content. With the average length of infection before detection being about six months, hackers can inflict severe amounts of damage.

With different security services being used, access and control are two key parameters that need managing attention to negate exploitation risks. IT teams can actively manage by implementing solutions that provide secure file sharing, targeted encryption of sensitive data and control over policies and access. Tracking who accesses what data and when helps businesses streamline data ecosystems and identify patterns that can indicate a breach.

3. Organise your data ecosystem

Aside from the nuts and bolts of where to keep data and how to access it, how it is structured matters too. Servers today are filled with duplicate data, redundant folders and previous and current employees' own personal methods of storing content. This type of patchwork system detracts from the bottom line.

To address this problem, first you must assess your data environment. To create a sustainable and useful data ecosystem, you must decide where to store your categories of data. Since not all data is created equal—storage considerations around security, access and backup can help you triage your system and decide what to store in-house or on the cloud. Some data will always need to stay behind the in-house firewall due to privacy and compliance issues but other data may benefit from the flexibility of living in the cloud. The main takeaway is that IT resources should be able to maintain your system when pitted against the possibility of a data breach.

4. Centralise content governance

While collaboration is the lifeblood of many businesses, those that lack central control of their data face unnecessary hurdles—security threats and accidental deletions of critical files. Intelligent data management helps businesses understand how their data is being used so they can better organise it and make key decisions about storage, access, analytics and collaboration. To achieve this, content governance needs to be centralised.

Content governance helps track compliance issues and security threats like unusual user permissions and usage patterns. Today's solutions let companies control access, encryption, location and more from a dashboard. And with SaaS, there are no longer hardware costs involved. A centralised content governance system that addresses permissions, accessibility and storage is critical to staying competitive and in control of your data. After all, data sprawl, security risks and inefficient organisation are the bane of modern business. And the race to compete is already on. 

Rajesh Ram, Chief Customer Officer & Co-Founder, Egnyte (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/alexskopje

Rajesh Ram is Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder of Egnyte. As Chief Customer Officer, his charter is to maximize customer acquisition, satisfaction and retention. Rajesh works with Egnyte's customers and internal teams to ensure that the comprehensive voice of the customer is reflected in the company’s corporate strategy and execution. Previously, Rajesh held executive roles within Egnyte's Product Management and Engineering functions. His strength in defining, delivering and supporting software solutions was developed while at Oracle, KPMG consulting and Valdero Corporation. Rajesh holds a BS in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and received an MS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Minnesota.