Spring clean your data: Declutter and secure your business information

Spring clean your data: Declutter and secure your business information

Ever-growing volumes of data is a challenge every business has to contend with in the modern era. From customer information to financial records and operational documents, you’re likely having to generate and store terabytes of data every day.

Managing and tracking this data effectively is crucial for maintaining security, compliance, and operational efficiency. Failure to do so can lead to data breaches and reduced productivity, as data that’s been misplaced or forgotten is a prime target for cybercriminals. Data bloat also uses up storage space and makes it incredibly difficult to find mission-critical information.

Here are some ways you can securely declutter your data so your business can mitigate data breach risks and your employees can enjoy more streamlined workflows.

Conduct a comprehensive data audit

Before you can declutter your data, you have to know what needs cleaning and what doesn’t. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Conduct a thorough data audit to understand what data your business retains, where it's stored, and who has access to it.
  2. Identify all data repositories, including on-premises servers, cloud archives, and employee devices.
  3. Categorize data based on its sensitivity and relevance to your business operations.
  4. Determine which data is essential for ongoing business activities and which can be safely archived or disposed of.

By gaining visibility into your data stores and practices, you can make informed decisions about what data to keep, archive, or delete.

Establish data management policies

After an audit, you can set data policies that govern the life cycle of your data. These policies should tell your employees what data to keep, how long to keep it, and when to dispose of it. Establish rules on different kinds of data, such as business records or data governed by compliance regulations. Also, don’t forget to update your policy as needed to reflect changes in compliance regulations, your operations, and your IT infrastructure.

Secure your data disposal practices

Once you know what you don’t need to keep, you can get rid of it, but you must dispose of it correctly or the data may persist and fall into the wrong hands. Simply hitting “delete” is no more effective than just tossing financial records into the trashcan and hoping no one looks in it.

That’s why you need to develop and implement secure data disposal practices. These practices may involve shredding physical documents and securely wiping electronic devices and storage media before disposal or recycling. You should also implement data retention protocols that keep track of how long sensitive information should stay within your organization until it’s automatically deleted. Financial records, for instance, will typically have a data retention period of up to seven years before it should be wiped from your servers and records.

If keeping track of your data disposal procedures proves too overwhelming, it’s worth engaging with third-party providers that specialize in data destruction services. These providers securely handle data disposal and adhere to industry regulations so that you’re not liable for data breaches and noncompliance.

Centralize your data storage

Centralizing your data storage system is key to improving accessibility, collaboration, and data management efficiency. Instead of keeping data on individual devices or across multiple servers and platforms, consolidate all your business data into a centralized storage solution, such as a cloud storage platform or an on-premises server. This will save time dealing with multiple storage locations and improve collaboration.

Standardize folder and file naming conventions

Even just taking an extra minute or two to find the file you are looking for adds up over time and drains your productivity, to say nothing of when you can’t find it all due to unfamiliar labels. Make sure all of you employees are on the same page when it comes to naming folders and files in your data archives and software apps by setting a company-wide policy. It will make searching for documents and files easier, as your folders will be more organized and uniform, giving you a small but significant boost to your productivity.

It can be difficult to see your data clutter problems from the outside, so bring in consultants with knowledge of archiving solutions and data storage best practices who can see the big picture. If your business is in the DC Metro Area, contact outsourceIT today and get certified experts to declutter your archives and streamline your data practices. We’ll leverage our 20+ years of experience to ensure your data stores are secure and organized.

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