How much is your data worth?

3rd August 2017

A recent report in The Economist suggested that data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable commodity. The data economy discussed in the article may relate more to the big data held by internet giants like Google and Facebook, or the wealth of insight and information provided by the Internet of Things, but within a business, data has always been valuable. Understanding the value of your data is the step to ensure that it is properly stored and protected.

The best way to consider how much your data is worth is to imagine that you’ve lost it all. For example, how would the business run if you lost all your customer and client contact details? How would you fare if sensitive information was leaked to the public – are you liable for fines? What happens to your reputation if people can’t reach you by phone or email, or your website crashes? What would happen if your systems were all locked down and you couldn’t take orders or conduct business for a day? How about a week?

These may sound like extreme examples, but it wouldn’t take much for them to happen. If you don’t have an offsite backup of your data, for example, you could lose all your customer data during a random technical failure of hardware or software, or the destruction of your computers due to an accident or storm. You may be able to get it back using a recovery service, but that is likely to be a costly option. Recent ransomware cyber-attacks threatened organisations with the destruction or public release of their data if they didn’t pay the stated ransom. If you don’t have a suitable policy to prove you’ve taken all reasonable steps to protect your data, or you don’t have a disaster recovery plan, then you’re likely to be vulnerable enough to pay the ransom rather than risk breaching strict data protection legislation or losing everything.

Before the potential threats start keeping you up at night, it’s worth taking steps to ensure your data is well protected. Colocating servers in a data centre means you benefit from the latest and best technology and expertise in terms of everything from efficiency to security. This means not only is your data likely to be safer there, but it could very well reduce your running costs in terms of power consumption. Cloud services are another option; while a single machine or even a network can easily be corrupted, you can access cloud services from anywhere you have an internet connection. This means that investing in cloud solutions, and the supporting connectivity to ensure they run smoothly, can give you another layer of protection in ensuring some continuity to your business.

Finally, even with the best possible solutions available, you need to have a disaster recovery plan which considers a wide range of scenarios and how the business will respond and protect against major threats. I know this sounds like the advice of a gloomy pessimist, focusing on all the things that can go wrong, but it’s worth taking this perspective when you go back to the original question. Your data is worth a lot to your business. Taking the time to consider the ways in which it might be lost is a way of ensuring you protect that value.

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