What Businesses Need to Know About Data Management

Data is one of the most valuable resources that a company can have. The information your small business collects can contain insights on everything from customer preferences to opportunities to cut costs and streamline the supply chain.

However, as valuable as data is, it must be managed carefully.

Data management is the combination of internal processes that your business uses to keep its information organized, secure and accessible. Without the right management practices, your datasets can become fragmented, hard to access and vulnerable to hackers.

Here’s everything a business needs to know about the basics of data management, and how good practices can keep it secure and easy to use.

1. Good Organization Can Make Data Easy to Find

Standard naming and organization conventions can help your data analysts find the info they’re looking for — even if they’re not familiar with a particular dataset or corner of the business network.

This will help reduce time spent looking for information, ensuring that your team can spend time on actual analysis and data cleaning. No one should have to spend hours searching for what they need to do their job.

2. Recovery Planning Can Help Avoid a Crisis

Data breaches and accidents can easily lead to loss. If you don’t have a plan in place to recover that information, you could be facing some serious downtime. You’ll need to rebuild your dataset or cobble it back together with what you have available.

Regular backups can help avoid a crisis and ensure that you can keep your business running smoothly even if large amounts of data are lost. Just remember to test your backups, as well. It’s no good to you if it fails.

3. Data Security and Privacy Should Be a Top Priority

Data breaches and hacks are a serious threat for companies of all sizes. According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses accounted for nearly one-third of victims that year. If you’re collecting sensitive customer data or storing company info you want to keep safe, you need to make security a top priority.

Easy-to-implement best practices for data security — like requiring strong passwords, managing network access and training employees to spot a phishing scam — are simple. They can go a long way in limiting the damage a breach can do.

4. Data Migrations Can Create New Opportunities — and Challenges

If your data is stored on-site, you may be planning for a migration to the cloud. You might also need to move information in the event of an acquisition or if company workflows have changed.

Data migrations often open up a range of new possibilities for a business. Moving info to the cloud, for example, makes it possible for your analysts to remotely access that information, even if they’re not in the office.

However, this migration can also be somewhat risky. Businesses often make serious data migration mistakes, like failing to test their backups or beginning the process without a solid plan.

5. Accessibility Makes Data More Valuable

The easier it is for a business’s employees to collect and analyze stored information, the more efficient their work will be. When planning your data management strategy, take into account the accessibility needs of your team. Will they always have access to a local network? Do they need the data organized in a specific way or location to stay efficient?

Answering questions like these can help you structure your organization’s approach and ensure access is quick and easy for everyone in the business.

6. Less Data Collection Can Be More

With data, as with most things, quality is more useful than quantity. A highly accurate and comprehensive dataset is going to be more valuable to your analysts than a larger one that’s spotty, untrustworthy or lacking in detail.

When planning how you’ll collect information or auditing your existing datasets, it’s a good idea to prioritize completeness and accuracy over volume.

Reducing data collection can also make it easier to secure. The less information you hold on to and the less complex the network is, the simpler it will be for your cybersecurity staff to manage network access and secure data. When conducting an audit, consider both the amount and type of information you’re storing. Some data — like customer payments — may be unnecessary and a liability in the event of a breach.

7. Data Management Tools Can Help

All this organizing and sorting doesn’t have to be manual. There is a wide range of management tools that businesses can use to keep their data in order and secure.

While most of the bigger names in data management software are built for enterprise-level use, you can still get a lot of mileage out of these tools, even if the network you’re managing is fairly small. If you want a simpler solution, there’s also a range of document management tools that you can use to manage files and digitize important documents — like shipping notices, audits or maintenance records.

How Data Management Can Help Your SMB

Because the information you collect is so valuable, you want it to be available at a moment’s notice. Good data management policies can ensure your data is easy to find and organized in a way that makes it useful to analysts. These same policies can also help you defend your data and business network against attacks by cybercriminals targeting small and medium businesses more often.

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