Critical data are information that is vital to the operation of a business.

If the data gets compromised, the business becomes exposed to risk that could lead to financial losses, bankruptcy, legal issues, and even closure.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen businesses and high-level organizations lose critical data.

Retailers, banks and credit card companies have had their customer databases stolen.

Government offices and agencies have had their emails compromised.

Threats have been made by cyber-criminals to attack critical data of utilities companies in order to disrupt services to citizens.

Thus, it is important for businesses to secure and protect critical data.

Unfortunately, most businesses are not aware of what their critical data are.

4 Questions You Need To Ask To Identify Business Critical Data

Businesses have embraced digital technology.

Most, if not all, of their processes have been automated. It just makes running a business more efficient.

Business owners and top- level executives also understand the importance of having their networks protected from malicious attacks.

Less understood however, is what data protection entails.

A comprehensive approach to data protection involves more than just backing up data.

You have to make sure you have the capability to restore the data that are necessary to restart the business process.

For example, you run a manufacturing company that employs 5,000 people. You find out your payroll data has been compromised.

The company’s Storage Data Manager has informed you that there was an automatic backup made of the employee payroll roster.

What about the data for the application that updates the total salaries and benefits payable to the employees?

Was your data protection protocol able to secure this data? If so, can your current system run the process without issue?

Manufacturing is a labor-intensive industry. In most cases, these companies are unionized.

If the workers are not paid on time or accurately compensated in terms of salaries and benefits, they might refuse to work and freeze operations.

Here are four questions businesses need to ask in order to correctly identify and secure critical data:

  1. Which Data Needs Protection?

Most businesses don’t know which data needs protection. This is because they do not know which processes need the data.

In our previous example, employee details such as names, addresses, tax account, and social security numbers are required data for payroll systems.

For a retailer, customer information like credit card numbers, birth dates, and government I.D. numbers are needed to process transactions.

Business owners and top-level executives should request senior management to conduct a data analysis and pinpoint the processes that are being supported

  1. Where Is the Data Located?

Once the correct business processes have been identified, the next step would be to identify the infrastructure which is used to store the data.

This area is the specialization of Data Storage Administrator (DSA) or Information Systems Manager (ISM).

Find out from your DSA or ISM how the infrastructure of your data networking system is setup.

They will show you a schematic called the Technological Profile of your system to give you an idea on how data is stored, secured, and in some cases, encrypted.

Technological Profiles identify specific apps or programs that are used to run the data protection system.

  1. What Is the Best Approach to Protect the Data?

Determining the best approach to protect the data requires the advice of experts in I.T. security systems.

If the current network has been proven inefficient or incapable to providing adequate security, changes in its processes and frameworks will have to be undertaken.

This may involve changing the existing applications that have been installed.

Programs may have to be re-configured. The entire technological profile of your Information Systems network may have to be changed.

Thus, for business owners and top-level executives, you need to develop a deeper understanding of your automation systems in order to come up with the best decision for your company.

  1. What Is Your Budget for Protecting the Data?

Ensuring the security and integrity of your critical data will come at a cost. How much are you willing to pay to protect critical data?

Keep in mind that systems never stay stagnant.

It has to remain dynamic and be allowed to evolve because cyber-criminals are trying to stay ahead of security systems.

Applications and programs have to be updated regularly.

You may have to introduce new hardware to increase capacity or improve performance of the current infrastructure.

Data that has been stolen or compromised may cost businesses losses that run in the millions of U.S. dollars.

Spending for the security of critical data is really an investment that protects you from incurring risks which pose as threats to your financial stability and business reputation.

The First Step: Identifying Your Core Business Process

The first step in identifying your critical data starts with your core business process.

No doubt, you’ve heard the term “core business process” many times. What does it really mean?

Essentially, your core business process is the minimum set of specific tasks that are needed to accomplish a desired result.

For example, the core business process of an online retailer is to authorize a transaction on the ecommerce website.

Once a potential customer lands on the checkout counter, the decision to push through the transaction will entail the process of providing details such as credit card number, address, and other contact information.

An ecommerce website comes with standard applications and programs to allow the transaction to happen.

However, you may wish to improve the infrastructure by revising or upgrading its current set of applications and programs.

You may decide to add new frameworks to the system in an effort to fortify security measures.

Protecting your critical data means building on the current systems that presently support your core business function.

A good example would be the “Capcha” identification feature which is often included in ecommerce and file sharing platforms.

Conclusion

An organization is an entity that is supported by different functions. For example, a company is made up of different departments.

These departments include Human Resources, Accounting, Marketing, Sales, and Information technology.

These functions allow the organization to serve its purpose, meet its objectives and service its target markets.

Each function has its own set of business processes which make it run efficiently.

Within a company, these business processes form part of a larger, more complex system.

Departments such as Human Resources and Accounting have their own database that house information critical to their function.

It is important for the company to ensure the protection and security of critical data so that the entire system is not affected.

Critical data must not be compromised. Otherwise, business itself will be disrupted.

Streams of revenues could be shut down. Hard- earned business and industry reputations could be irreparably destroyed.

Worse, the safety and integrity of your customers, clients, and subscribers shall be exposed to risk.

Confidential information such as bank account numbers, social security and tax account details, birth dates, driver’s license information, and other valuable data could be used against them.

Your employees are not spared. If information pertinent to their social security, 401k, and similar benefits are accessed by unauthorized third parties, their future well- being could be at risk.

Retirement plans become jeopardized.

Businesses should be ready and willing to invest in infrastructure and systems that will ensure the security and protection of critical data.

The risks of having inadequate systems and unreliable frameworks will far outweigh the costs of setting up the right technological profile for your business.