Data is fast becoming one of the most valuable assets of a business. Companies are generating it at a greater rate than ever before, but as the quantity and value of data increases, the control businesses have over their data is declining.
With offsite data storage centres and cloud hosting replacing in-office servers, this raises a number of questions. Who actually has the data? Where is it? How can it be protected?
And perhaps most pressing – How can you get the data back from wherever it is being stored?
An escrow service doesn’t have anything to do with safeguarding data, so businesses will have to take other steps to protect their information.
Maintain good relationships
The crux of the solution is to maintain a good relationship with the company that stores your data. You may decide to move your data to another storage provider, the storage provider may go out of business or move away from your market, there are a number of ways the relationship could end from either party.
By maintaining a good relationship with your hosting provider, you make it much more likely that they will assist in migrating your data to a new provider.
Electronic data comes in many formats – some more useful than others. A storage provider may not be entitled to hold onto your data, but may dump it back to you in a format you cannot use.
Good relationships start with strong agreements
A good contract can help protect your data while it is in the care of someone else. It should cover the setup of the data storage and the obligations of both parties.
How often can you access your data? How is the access controlled?
When you are able to access or take possession of the data, what format will it be in, and will it be useful to you?
When the agreement is ended by either party, will the hosting company assist in the transition to a new host? If so, how? Will your data be available only at the end of the contract, remain available for several months, or only become available after a waiting period?
If you don’t pay on time, can you get your data? If you and the hosting company enter a disputes resolution process – what happens to your data until a judgement is made?
A strong agreement will have the answers to these questions in it from the start of the relationship, so both parties can have certainty going forward.
What is your data worth?
It is always worth considering the worst case scenario. For instance, a natural disaster destroys a remote storage centre, or a cloud storage company goes suddenly out of business and leaves you completely unable to access your data.
For many businesses, either of those situations would be a catastrophe. But how can you protect your data? Many business insurance companies offer “cyber insurance” to cover events of this kind, but for many companies no amount of financial recompense could cover the damage done from a large-scale loss of data.
One answer is to have the data backed-up somewhere else. A real-time mirror with mutual failover would mean that if something happened to one data storage location, the other would have all the data safe and sound.
This kind of back-up system costs money, of course. Whether it is worth running such a system is entirely based on what the data is worth as an asset to your company. A business may decide that only the most important data is worth backing up, and run a partial mirror to duplicate only the most valuable information.
When entrusting your data to someone else, it is vital to ensure that any lingering questions are adequately answered before you float the information up into the cloud. Otherwise you risk never being able to bring it down again.
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