6 steps to drive your business data better | 5S Projectsetter | 5S Projects

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Could your data drive your business better?

Define your storage strategy

Determining the best method to manage and store data can be challenging for a business. In order to make a well informed and future-proof decision, you must thoroughly analyse your needs by answering the following questions:

1. How much data do you need to store?
2. How often do you need to retrieve data?
3. From what locations do you need to access data?
4. How long do you need to retain data?
5. How secure does data need to be?
6. What regulatory requirements need to be adhered to?

Integrate, don’t duplicate

It’s important to be able to easily search and extract data whenever required. It’s therefore tempting to try and populate a single repository with everything, even though it means duplication and a high risk of errors creeping in. 

However no single system can meet 100% of your business needs, so it is far better to seek out complimentary data sources instead. Using versatile systems with options to integrate via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is ideal, as code can be written allowing the system to exchange data with other systems. 

Where two systems won’t sync though, an effective workaround is to design a report containing the right data in the right order for each one, export to CSV, and then create an Excel template that performs the necessary calculations on the combined report.

Keep it secure

It makes sense to choose the most secure system(s) possible for your data, even if your industry doesn’t require it. It’s also important to establish a data retention policy – some data must be retained for many years, while some may only be needed for days. 

Don’t store redundant data, try to only keep what you need. And if you’re reliant on third parties, always thoroughly check their terms and conditions to make sure you’re comfortable.

Keep it compliant

All businesses need to comply with regulations such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) with regard to privacy of the personal data they collect, store and process. 

Consent is required for data use and any data breaches must be disclosed. Businesses must also share any information they hold on consumers and delete it if requested. They also need to make it clear why data is being collected in the first place, and its intended use.

Choose your solution

Once you have clarity on the storage capabilities you require, carefully weigh up the benefits of all the options that meet these. Here are some examples:

On-premises: An on-premises data solution allows businesses complete control over their network and data buy housing servers onsite. This can be costly though – outdated equipment needs to be replaced, software needs to be patched and updated, and access protocols need to be strictly regulated. Because of this, despite the lure of having full control, it’s often only feasible for large organisations.

Co-location: By co-locating equipment off-premises, businesses don’t have to deal with the hassle of managing an on-premises set up. Instead they gain the benefits of a data centre’s versatility and services, and keep costs at a predictable level, while still retaining complete control over their data.

Private cloud: Similar to co-location, a private cloud set-up offers excellent levels of security, especially when coupled with encryption protocols. This is a good choice for companies who can’t afford to take risks with their data.

Public cloud: For many small to medium-sized companies, it makes sense to migrate all data operations to a public cloud provider. They are usually quite scalable and the easy access allows employees to utilize data from almost anywhere, which is a huge benefit for businesses with remote workforces.

Network-attached storage: Network-attached storage (NAS) solutions are suitable for small and mid-sized businesses who need large amounts of economical storage that multiple users can share over a network. They are efficient, scalable and easy to manage centrally.

External hard drive: A simple and relatively inexpensive storage solution is to connect an external hard disk drive to your computer, but any files will need to be backed up elsewhere. Also if access to files is required while out and about, you’ll either have to take the drive with you, or remember to copy the required files to another source. However as long as it is routinely backed up, it can be an efficient extra layer of security, as if a breach occurs, only data generated since the last backup will be lost.

Back it up

Just backing up data in one place is not enough. The recommendation is to implement at least two solutions for storing data off-network, as well as maintaining it on your network. The trick is to have a clear disaster recovery plan and test it often.

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