By Damian Alderson – Ever since the internet has become the main business playground, and especially with the advent of cloud computing and cloud-based architectures, cyber risks have become an omnipresent issue. The situations wherein a company’s sensitive information gets compromised as a result of data breaches allowed by subpar cybersecurity levels have been on the rise over the last 15 years or so, causing numerous businesses to lose data, clients, and go under.
These problems occur on a daily basis, all around the globe and with little regard to the industry the organization operates in. In some cases, the breaches that can compromise critical data are so well organized that a company isn’t even aware of these attacks until it is far too late.
However, all this hype that is being generated around cyberattacks has also caused many businesses to reevaluate their data and infrastructure security layers and double-check just how vulnerable their company (and clients’) data really is. One of the main steps toward this security reevaluation and fortification is coming up with a clear and solid company-level security strategy, while a huge chunk of this convoluted task is taking care of your data retention policy.
This article explains why having a strong data retention policy in place is a prerequisite to developing any type of data security plan, while it also tackles some of the main steps toward creating one for your own business.
Hoarding old data is not a good practice. Not only does it render your overall costs suboptimal as you hold onto and store data that you no longer need, but it can also help cyber attackers get access to sensitive information that can compromise your entire business.
This is why data retention policies exist – to periodically audit and review which data needs to be stored, where, how and for how long.
Although data has become a critical asset of almost any type of modern company, it is not a good idea to retain all of it. The organizations that take proper care of their data retention policy retain only the data pieces that are absolutely necessary, and in so doing, they manage to minimize the risks associated with potential cyber breaches.
When it comes to protecting client data, the standards and laws can get very complicated and some of them may vary depending on the geolocation, industry niche, etc. The “one size does not fit all” rule is definitely not the case in terms of data retention laws. Knowing for sure when it is ok to delete your own or your client data can be quite tricky, and one wrong move can potentially cost you an arm and a leg in the future. For example, depending on the situation, case circumstances, as well as jurisdiction, the time-frame in which the attorneys or businesses are required to retain certain files can vary substantially. On the other hand, various data retention standards and rules may cause unnecessary fears that certain documents will be discarded before their optimal retention time-frame, resulting in companies storing large amounts of junk files for an indefinite amount of time.
This is why creating a solid and legally-backed data retention and destruction policy is extremely important to both your own business and your clients.
A strong data retention policy should first and foremost protect all your critical data, but it cannot perform this important task if it doesn’t really know which data is critical and which is not. This is why it is highly recommended that you classify your company data carefully and logically and determine:
- which data types should be actively stored
- for how long
- how and when it should be destroyed, relocated, etc.
Be sure that your data retention strategy includes incident response planning, training, strategy testing, along with the aforementioned data classification process. When it comes to potential legal issues, it is critical to know for sure which pieces of data that your company manages and stores fall under legal retention requirements and why.
Similarly, it is critical that you have the same approach to all types of data that go through all your networks and communication channels. Think: email platforms, Skype, Slack, SaaS-based platforms that your business and your clients are using. etc; while also don’t forget about the increasingly popular BYOD (bring your own device) model wherein employees use their own computers and other smart devices to perform business-related tasks.
Creating strong data and email retention policies can help companies achieve safe environments for their clients, reach high data security levels across their entire company, reach proper data compliance, while at the same time optimizing their costs in terms of storing and managing data, both old and new.
Additionally, the very process of file deletion isn’t as simple as the mere pressing of the ‘delete’ button. There are numerous standards that each business should follow according to the best practice tips tailored for their own industry. For example, always be sure that you forensically delete your data and that you record them for future reference.
Now, although it is a good practice to actively review and delete unnecessary data in order to obviate the risks associated with data breaches, certain businesses are simply required to manage and retain huge amounts of data – even for clients and cases that haven’t been active for a while. In these cases it is important to have a tailor-made data retention policy that will keep all the necessary documents accessible, all the while keeping the data storing costs optimized.
Raising awareness about cyber risks is just as important as having a strong security strategy that would mitigate most of them. The average modern company is – luckily – realizing this notion more and more, which is why businesses are increasingly investing in all the necessary technical aspects of proper data protection and cybersecurity plans.
Your organization’s cybersecurity team must not leave anything to chance and should have a strategy that leaves few to no cracks within your security layers. Remember, it takes a single data breach to jeopardize your entire company, and compromise your employees, as well as your clients.
Damian Alderson is a business consultant and a freelance blogger from New York. He writes about the latest tech solutions and marketing insights. Follow him on Twitter for more articles. – damian[@]jatheon.com
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