What is critical data? In short, it is any information that is vital to the operation of a business.

No critical data elements must get compromised; if they do, the business becomes exposed to several high risks that could lead to financial losses, bankruptcy, legal issues, and even closure.

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

Retailers, banks, and credit card companies have had their customer databases stolen, so it is vital your business can master data management.

Government offices and agencies have had their emails compromised. Threats have been made by cyber-criminals to attack critical data elements of utility companies to disrupt services to citizens.

This is why it is of paramount importance that businesses make sure that they secure and protect critical customer data. Unfortunately, most businesses are not aware of what their critical data elements are.

5 Questions You Need To Ask To Identify Business Critical Data Elements

Over the years, businesses worldwide have embraced digital technology, but many have failed to get to grips with the critical data elements of their company.

In most businesses, the critical data element processes have been automated to make running a business more efficient.

Business owners and top-level executives also understand the importance of having their networks protected from malicious attacks. However, it is less understood what data protection entails and what it takes to identify critical data elements.

A comprehensive approach to data protection involves more than just backing up data. You have to make sure you can restore any critical data elements that are necessary to restart the business process.

For example, if you run a manufacturing company that employs 5,000 people, you should have a fully implemented data management system. By having such a system in place, you can easily find out if 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 data processing system run the process without issue?

Manufacturing is a labour-intensive industry. In most cases, these companies are unionised. 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 to correctly identify and secure critical data elements:

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 accounts, 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 data management executives should request senior management to conduct data analysis and pinpoint the processes that are being supported.

2. 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 critical data element. This area is the specialisation of a 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 set up to help you determine the most critical data which are key to your business.

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

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

3. 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 incapable of providing adequate security, changes in its processes and frameworks will have to be undertaken to find the best solutions.

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.

This means business owners and top-level executives need to develop a deeper understanding of the stored key data of your automation systems to come up with the best decision for your company.

4. What Is Your Budget for Protecting the Data?

Ensuring the security and integrity of your critical data will come at a cost, but getting the right system and solutions for your company will add value in the long term.

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, so make sure you carry out your research on the data that is critical to your business.

You may have to introduce new hardware to increase capacity or improve the 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 quality is an investment that protects you from incurring risks that pose threats to your financial stability and business reputation.

5. Can You Afford To Hire A Data Specialist?

In this case, it may be more cost-effective for your business to hire a virtual assistant who has the right skill set to deal with your company’s data management system. You would need to define critical data that applies to your company to make sure that the V.A. is skilled in this area.

All small businesses should consider hiring a V.A. data specialist to deal with all their company’s data management needs. Hiring can prove cost-efficient, and data quality is vital to all businesses as critical data varies and data quality rules will need to be applied.

All kinds of organisations are identifying that they can add value to any specific business area by hiring a V.A. to focus on any number of data compliance.

If you want continued success, you must employ subject matter experts, such as those with data skills that improve revenue which is vital for your business.

Identifying Your Core Business Process

The first step in identifying your critical data element starts within your data management system 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 the desired result.

For example, the core business process of an online retailer is to authorise a transaction on the eCommerce website when dealing with financial data.

Once a potential customer lands at 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 in accordance with data governance practice.

You may decide to add new frameworks to the system 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 “Captcha” identification feature which is often included in eCommerce and file-sharing platforms.

Integrating Data Protection Processes

An organisation 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 organisation 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 and improve product quality through a well thought out business policy.

Within a company, these business processes form part of a larger, more complex data management system which all contain critical data elements.

Departments such as Human Resources and Accounting have a database that houses information critical to their function. Each of these departments will deal with employee data.

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

Proper governance must be implemented when dealing with critical data to make sure that it is not compromised. If you experience any adverse data issues, then your business will be disrupted. Streams of revenue 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 could be exposed to risk which breaches data classification and is not in line with regulatory compliance.

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

Your employees’ critical data could be compromised. If information pertinent to their social security, 401k, and similar benefits are accessed by unauthorised third parties, their future well-being could be at risk.

As a result of mishandling high-quality data regarding your employees then, their retirement plans become jeopardised.

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

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

Contact Us Today

So as we can see, many organisations realise that they need to take data classification within their company more seriously.

They are looking for solutions that help them focus on achieving continued success through having derived values as a business. When hiring a V.A. to carry out work concerning critical data elements, they must know data governance practices.

If you want to hire a V.A. with an efficient approach when working with critical data elements of your business, then please get in touch with a member of our team today.

We have a team of VAs with great experience who are ready to take on new work for clients.