Enterprise Data Protection for Small Financial Firms
Data is the lifeblood of a business. There’s a reason that data protection has dominated the headlines in recent years – databases are the modern-day goldmines.
Information, facts, and statistics collected over time reveal patterns and trends that form the basis of profitable business decisions.
In fact, a quality dataset can be a business’s most valuable asset and can give the business a competitive edge. This realization has formed the basis of the monetization of data.
This is not to be confused with data security, which aims to protect data against unauthorized access, use, and distribution. Instead, data protection is concerned with mechanisms to prevent the loss of data.
In their simplest form, data loss prevention (DLP) techniques can involve making and securely storing copies of essential data. While such actions may seem mundane, losing something as simple as your client email list can cause irreparable harm to your business.
Of course, your bottom line isn’t the only aspect of your business that stands to be negatively impacted by data loss.
Depending on the location of your business, there may be certain standards and data security measures that your firm should follow. Compliance with legal requirements can save your business from potentially devastating consequences.
Read on to learn more about enterprise data, including ideas on effective ways to manage and protect it.
Defining Enterprise Data Protection: A Guide for Small Financial Firms
All businesses store and rely on data of some sort. However, more often than not, small businesses underestimate the importance of data security. Most brush it off as a concern for larger corporations with more expendable financial resources.
As the digital revolution continues to unfold, paper, files, and filing cabinets are being replaced with easily accessible and shareable digital records. However, the digital world is not without its risks. Small firms that take data protection seriously are well-positioned to weather the storm in the event of loss with minimal impact to their business.
In order to create an effective enterprise data protection (EDP) strategy, it’s important to understand exactly what enterprise data is and the various ways that it can be protected, Use this guide to identify the various types of data your firm manages and stores and form the basis of your protection strategy.
What Is Enterprise Data?
Enterprise data is a term that may be difficult to pin down. Generally speaking, it is any digital information shared throughout an organization. However, it can be defined as any data that is collected and shared between members of a business, company, organization, or institution. Examples of enterprise data include everything from employee records to transaction records.
In order to do their jobs effectively, members at all levels of an organizational structure gather or have access to some data. Typically, data security involves clearance levels that widen depending on the individual rank and responsibility of the employee. Therefore, the more senior an employee is in an organization, the more access they have to important data.
This means that lower-level employees don’t tend to have access to sensitive information. It also means that sensitive data is shared amongst a smaller pool of employees – management or upper-level employees. As can be expected, it is generally good practice to limit data access as far as reasonably possible. However, as an enterprise grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to protect data.
It’s one thing to manage data in a small organization made up of less than ten employees. However, it’s another thing to effectively protect data across multiple departments and geographical locations. As the number of customers increase, so does the quantity of data; and, as the number of employees increases, so does the number of devices – all of which translates to an increase in the likelihood of loss.
What Is Enterprise Data Protection?
EDP is a wide term that encompasses the use of various tools and techniques used to protect data. Most people associate data protection with simply creating back-ups.
In fact, for many small businesses, that’s as far as their protection mechanisms go. However, the management, storage, and utilization of data must be monitored, too.
Sharing information with your employees is essential to maintaining the regular operations of your business.
However, doing so potentially compromises the security of the data and your business. Not only does the possibility for human error increase as more employees are allowed to access enterprise data, but managing security across multiple locations, shared networks, and various devices without a clear security strategy and a dedicated IT team becomes practically impossible.
Now that employee-owned computers and smartphones have become common features in every workplace, corporate-owned devices aren’t the only thing to worry about. Data security involves securing any devices that may be used to access the data. In the context of remote working, this requirement becomes all the more important as workers may rely more heavily on their personal devices.
EDP also envisages protecting data that passes through communication channels, such as emails and online chats. In addition, the measures should address apps and social media platforms that may contain security vulnerabilities and/or implement certain policies and procedures that compromise your data security or undermine your data protection strategy.
What Are the Benefits of Enterprise Data Protection for Small Financial Firms?
Financial data, which is often accompanied by personal data, is always sensitive information. Regardless of whether the information relates to the business itself, its partners, its employees, or its customers, it’s important to protect critical data from leakage and loss.
While financial information should be protected at all costs in any organization, for financial firms, ensuring data protection is something that should be built into every aspect of the business. A failure to integrate protection measures may compromise client investments and open your business up to cybercrime.
At a time where major financial firms report data breaches and leaks at an alarming rate, prioritizing data protection and privacy will give your firm the edge it needs to set itself apart from the competition.
Example of an Enterprise Data Protection Strategy
At the outset, it’s crucial that your firm is well-acquainted with its legal compliance requirements. After all, there is little point in employing data protection measures that fail to meet legal standards.
There are many components that go into a data protection strategy – not all of which will be applicable to every business model. The following is an example of a basic data protection strategy for small firms.
Use it to further your understanding of an EDP strategy, as a starting point in identifying your needs, and as an aid in defining your standards.
1. Conduct a Security Audit
Security audits analyze the inherent strengths and weaknesses in your IT infrastructure at any given time. Contrary to popular belief, security audits shouldn’t be once-off exercises – they are an essential component of your data protection strategy and should be routinely conducted.
Think of a security audit like a doctor’s appointment – routine check-ups are just as important as seeking a diagnosis for a pre-existing condition. If you are working with your internal IT team, then instruct them to schedule regular security audits. However, if you are looking to outsource your firm’s security needs, then look for a team that offers ongoing support and services.
A security audit should consider all facets of your IT infrastructure, including, but certainly not limited to: hardware, networks and connectivity, software, personal and enterprise apps, data access controls, data management, and data storage.
2. Update Hardware and Software
Once you have identified the gaps in your system, it’s time to implement some basic data protection measures. The most obvious way to update your security system is to modernize old hardware and update any software your business relies on. Enabling automatic updates is a great way to make sure that you always have the latest security updates installed.
While you’re at it, you may want to dig into the vulnerabilities and security standards of any enterprise apps and software that your employees use. Steer clear of software or integrations that have questionable practices and policies and do away with unnecessary desktop apps that may compromise your security.
3. Implement Access Control Mechanisms
Access control is multifaceted. To begin with, it’s important to define a hierarchy that forms the basis of what information a particular employee can access and when. Naturally, this means categorizing or classifying certain information according to the level of sensitivity.
Determining the sensitivity of the data is as simple as determining the level of risk associated with the leakage of the data. Accounting for financial consequences, customer goodwill, and legal repercussions will give you a basic framework to draw from.
Once categorized, you should secure access to the data by implementing strong passwords and one-time pins (OTPs) in conjunction with unique employee IDs. Not only does this add an important level of security, but it also forms the basis of monitoring and reporting measures. Keeping track of employee access can help you quickly identify breaches and vulnerabilities.
In the same breath, it’s easy to overlook physical access control measures – making sure your workstations and other hardware aren’t easily accessible to non-designated employees or the public is key. Being able to remotely wipe enterprise data in the case of a lost or stolen device, for example, can provide a great defense mechanism against unauthorized access to company data.
Limiting the number of devices that an employee can use to access confidential information can help to reign in inappropriate data sharing, particularly in regard to remote workers, who may work on a shared device, or if your company makes use of cloud computing.
4. Streamline Backups and Storage
Any data protection solution worth its salt will facilitate an appropriate storage solution as well as regular backups to prevent data loss. Both should strike a balance between security and safety, as access to vital data often goes hand-in-hand with the efficient management of the business.
Formulating a disaster recovery plan – procedures to follow in the event of a major data loss – should give your business access to unaffected data. Of course, this is only possible when paired with a solid data management system to ensure up-to-date backups and good enterprise data storage. Be sure to encrypt enterprise data at various levels as an added layer of protection.
How Much Will This Cost Me, and How Long Will it Take to Implement an EDP Solution for My Business?
Every business is different. That means that although there are certainly some basic protection mechanisms that can be implemented across the board, you cannot copy-paste an EDP solution. The best EDP solution for your business is the one that complements your business model, size, and of course, your budget.
That said, it’s impossible to design a solution without a good understanding of where the problems lie. While a security audit can reveal important information about the state of a company’s IT systems, the recommendations and solutions can only be as good as the audit.
Be sure that you work with an IT team or cyber security consultants that leave no stone unturned.
Investing in an effective data protection strategy for your firm should be seen as a priority and not a luxury. Once you start seeing data in the same light as you do other business assets such as hardware, equipment, and real estate, it becomes easy to see why it’s so important to protect your data.
When it comes to security, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you are interested in formulating an enterprise data protection strategy for your firm but aren’t sure about where to start, get in touch with Triada Networks for a solution tailored to your specific needs.