How to Upgrade Your Data Security

Contributed content / By Christopher Nichols / 20 November 2019

Businesses have more data than ever before to work with, which is both a blessing and a curse.

More data is a blessing from the insights that they can derive from this information and all of the ways it can improve operations through data-driven decision making. However, the curse comes from needing to properly protect this data against hackers, malware, and threats. 

When organizations want to improve their business intelligence efforts and upgrade their data security, they need to have a comprehensive strategy that addresses it on a systemic level.

9 Ways to Upgrade Your Data Security 

  1. Assess currency needs and capabilities
  2. Identify weak areas in the organization 
  3. Understand the root of challenges 
  4. Consult with end-users 
  5. Centralize data with cloud-based systems
  6. Use proactive cybersecurity measures to combat data breaches
  7. Use a VPN
  8. Change workflows to account for data-driven decision making
  9. Train end-users

Assess Current Needs and Capabilities

A base-level understanding of what the company has available is the most important first step. Without this understanding, it's impossible to know what's already in place for business intelligence solutions and cybersecurity

A complete audit of these areas will offer a detailed assessment into what the company is currently capable of doing and whether that's comparable to other organizations in the same market or industry. 

When identifying the current needs, also keep in mind the near-, mid-, and long-term future. Ask yourself:

  • What types of industry trends could change the requirements of cybersecurity and business intelligence? 
  • At what rate is the company currently growing?

By thinking critically about where your company currently stands in terms of data security, you’ll be better positioned to identify strengths and vulnerabilities. 

Identify Weak Areas in the Organization

Every company has its weak areas in cybersecurity and business intelligence, so it's important to be fully transparent about where it struggles. Otherwise, you may end up with a solution that doesn't truly meet the needs of your business. 

Once these areas are identified, it's also important to go through them with an eye for risk management. 

  • Which cybersecurity problems are the ones that would have the biggest impact on the organization? 
  • How likely is it that this type of breach or compromise is going to occur over time?

Most organizations can't resolve all of their security issues all at once, so risk assessment and management are necessary for prioritizing the areas that are the most critical for the company.

Understand the Root of Challenges

Once the organization knows the current needs, it also needs to look into the problems that are getting in the way of business goals. The solution to some of these challenges may be improved business intelligence. 

When determining these problems, look at the business from the perspective of multiple departments,  along with a top-down, company-wide view.

Consult With End Users

End users are the ones who will depend on these solutions day in and day out, so getting their feedback is essential in finding sustainable solutions. Skipping this step may result in solutions that don’t make sense for those they are intended to help.  

Including end-users in the process engages them in the solution process which drives up adoption rates and increases the likelihood of finding software and platforms that truly make their jobs easier.

The organization ends up with a more productive and happier workforce in the end.

Centralize Data With Cloud-Based Systems

Protecting data is hard when it's spread out throughout the organization. Cybersecurity measures may not be the same quality for all of the file locations, which puts data in less secure areas at risk. 

By centralizing data into a common set of locations, the complexity of the network is drastically reduced, and it becomes much easier to protect the information. 

Additionally, it cuts down on files getting lost on forgotten network shares or locked to an ex-employee's account after they leave.

Cloud-based systems are one of the easiest ways to consolidate an organization's worth of data. 

Employees log into these systems, which are hosted by a third-party company. Since everything takes place through that company's databases, the information is consolidated into a single location. The drawback is that this takes the information out of the direct control of the organization, which may not be an option for businesses operating in highly regulated sectors. 

Some cloud providers, however, specialize in regulated data storage and protection. For example, in healthcare, it's very common to see providers that offer HIPAA compliant cloud-based systems.

The overall costs are much smaller for cloud-based solutions because the company pays a subscription fee to use these resources, rather than buying all of the hardware and software upfront. 

Even a central, on-premises data center can replicate many of the benefits that the cloud brings, without giving up the control of data. 

There are also private clouds, which consolidate these resources while still working on hardware that's on-site, and hybrid approaches, which combine the public cloud resources with a company's private cloud. 

Many organizations of all sizes and industries are leveraging cloud-based systems, so it's a viable option for the company that wants to do better at protecting this personal and sensitive information.

Use Proactive Cybersecurity Measures to Combat Data Breaches

It's hard to predict the types of new attacks that a hacker might try to use during an attack, which is why cybersecurity was one of the biggest areas of investment for companies in 2019.

59% of businesses invested in cybersecurity in 2019 compared to 11% in 2018.

Cybercriminals evolve their tactics over time as new methods become available, which can lead to devastating zero-day attacks that compromise large swaths of sensitive information. 

Proactive cybersecurity measures such as advanced threat detection solutions don't rely solely on a set of definitions that identify malware and other attack vectors. 

They also look for tell-tale signatures of security breaches and other problems on the network. 

By looking for these warning signs, rather than a strict definition, the system picks up on attack methods that are not known to anti-malware companies yet. 

This method is immensely valuable for keeping personal data safe from particularly determined hackers.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) service will protect the browsing data and activities of anyone connecting to the public internet from the company. Competitors won't know that someone is browsing their website from the office headquarters, for example. 

Companies can also test their websites from multiple countries by routing their traffic through a VPN server located in those countries. 

Surfshark, for example, offers a VPN for $1.99 a month.

Finally, if an office is in a location that has internet censorship or another barrier to a free and open Internet, it can help the user circumvent those measures. 

People on business trips in these countries will get a lot of use out of this feature. Get a VPN 30 days trial to experiment with this solution and to see if it's a good fit for the organization.

Change Workflows to Account for Data-Driven Decision Making

Improving business intelligence doesn't matter if the new measures are not used. The current workflows and business processes may not fit the way that the new solutions operate. 

Some of these platforms will have workflows already built-in, while others allow a company to customize them to their taste. 

Revisit all of the processes that the company has in place to find ways to make them easier to do with better productivity. 

It may take a few tries before the best work processes really get nailed down. 

Stay in close communication with employees working with these systems throughout the process. 

It's impossible to get value out of these solutions without having clear workflows in place, whether the system itself guides people through them, or some are put in place on the platform.

Train the End Users

An important part of getting the greatest value out of cybersecurity and business intelligence solutions is to have a thorough training process in place for the end-users. At this point, they've already helped shape the solution through their earlier feedback, so they should feel connected to this project already. 

If they encounter many points of frustration that are not able to be overcome, it may become necessary to switch to a different type of platform that is better suited for the organization.

Cybersecurity awareness training is also an essential part of this process. Even the best network security measure can be thwarted by someone inside the network. 

In many cases, this is by accident, as the user doesn't understand basic cybersecurity practices. Make this an important part of the business culture to ensure that data is getting as much protection as possible. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before a data breach happens. 

Major data breaches have caused organizations to shut down, especially smaller businesses, so it's important to make this one of the priorities of the company in 2020 and beyond. 

Upgrading Your Data Security Requires a Robust Change Management Plan

Change management is an essential part of getting people to adopt these new procedures and policies. The change management team should be handling all of the training, the awareness building, and the buy-in of these improvements. 

This team is the point of contact if people run into problems with the software or they don't understand how it's supposed to benefit them. When a change management plan is working properly, the transition should be almost seamless following training. Keep clear lines of communication open with everyone involved, especially the direct end-users.

Data security and business intelligence go hand-in-hand, so when a company looks at upgrading one, they need to upgrade the other. 

Data breaches come fast and furious, especially in high-risk industries, and consumers are becoming more aware of the impact these breaches have on their everyday life. People value organizations that help their information stay safe, as far too many places have played fast and loose with this private data. 

Putting a comprehensive plan in place to address both data security and business intelligence ensures everything and everyone is covered.

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