What do you do if sensitive data is lost or corrupted? How do you keep important information safe? Malicious parties can profit greatly from ill-gotten data, and they can cost companies a fortune.
On average, data breaches cost companies over $4 million per incident, and 2021 has seen the highest average cost of data breaches in the past 17 years.
Data protection secures digital information through processes such as backups, replication, archiving, and data retention strategies. By storing backup data copies in a safe location, companies can be assured that their sensitive data is protected and available under all circumstances.
Without data protection, organizations cannot recover clean data copies in the aftermath of an unauthorized access event that compromises, corrupts, or deletes data.
Why data protection is more important than ever
Today’s workforce has seen a sharp increase in remote and hybrid work environments, with 55% of businesses worldwide offering some capacity for remote work. While remote/hybrid work offers numerous benefits for employers and employees, it also increases cybersecurity risks.
Individuals working off-site may be using multiple devices and operating systems, connecting to public Wi-Fi, and accessing sensitive data remotely on unsecured networks.
This new normal of remote and hybrid work makes data protection crucial for data integrity and regulatory compliance. The very act of transmitting information invites all manner of cyberattacks, so any organization that handles, collects, or stores sensitive data needs a comprehensive data protection strategy.
Businesses must ensure data can be restored quickly after a disruption or loss, especially when it comes to extremely sensitive data such as health records, financial data, and government information. When it comes to protecting critical information, here are some of the top data- protection measures to keep sensitive data safe.
1. Know the risks
Which businesses are most at risk for a data breach? Government, healthcare, and finance organizations are entrusted with the most sensitive data, so they are often the target of cyberattacks. In a recent survey, 47% of US federal government respondents reported that they had been the victim of a data breach within the last 12 months.
Healthcare companies are also targeted due to the personal records kept on every single patient. Billing and medical history, health surveys, and more are prime sources for would-be malicious parties. In the past year, more than 40 million healthcare records have been exposed via data breaches.
Finance is another sector that experiences a high potential for cyberattacks and data breaches. Of course, malicious parties want access to monetary assets, so financial corporations should always be on high alert.
In 2020, 70% of financial organizations reported some type of cyberattack. In fact, 27% of all attacks that year were carried out on healthcare and financial organizations.
2. Go beyond basic backups
Hackers and other malicious parties are constantly improving their tactics, so the old habit of a single weekly backup won’t be enough to ensure your data is safe. Fortunately, data protection strategies have kept pace, which means there are more ways than ever to protect your information.
- Cloning: Cloning makes an exact replica of a device’s operating system, including drives, software, and patches. This allows a company to set up multiple devices with the exact same interface, which saves time and reduces the chance of error when setting up multiple user systems. With a clone, IT administrators can load each device with the cloned system, granting access instantaneously to the approved applications and programs.
- Data mirroring: Data mirroring replicates the exact same changes or updates across multiple databases in separate locations. If the primary database is compromised, a mirrored database becomes the primary, ensuring operations continue uninterrupted.
- Replication: Replication operates on files and data instead of entire databases. Accessing a replica of a specific file allows multiple users to view and edit data on a host server without granting access to the entire database. This is especially useful for sensitive, high-level information with access limitations.
- Snapshots: Snapshots are like mini backups and are stored only on the device they are meant to protect. If the system is compromised, a snapshot serves as a starting point for system recovery. When a new snapshot is captured, it overwrites previous data images to minimize the bandwidth needed for access and storage.
3. Retain multiple copies in multiple locations
When backing up your data, it may seem like a good idea to store everything on an on-site server. Theoretically, this minimizes the time it takes to access the data during a failure and allows easy physical access for authorized users when maintenance is necessary.
However, to best protect your company’s sensitive data, you should follow the 3-2-1 rule, which recommends you have three copies of all data on at least two forms of media, with at least one backup at an off-site storage location.
Maintaining three copies of your data is easy considering today’s plethora of data storage options. It might be advantageous to house a second, physical server in an off-site location containing exact copies of the primary data via the mirroring process.
For ease of access, sharing, and remote work, your business may benefit from storing another copy in the cloud. This particular strategy also covers the part of the 3-2-1 rule that suggests two separate forms of media.
But how do you determine the location for your off-site backup? Experts recommend enacting an air gap, meaning that the data is stored in a separate physical location, disconnected from the internet. This method renders it inaccessible unless a user physically enters the storage location, which is much more difficult for malicious parties to do.
However, with the increase in remote and hybrid work, along with the speed of data generation, many companies choose to have their off-site server connected to the internet for easy recovery. If you go this route, it is important to ensure that the backup is on a different power grid and on an entirely different network than your primary data.
4. Implement continuous data protection strategies
The frequency of your data backups will depend largely on your company’s operations. Most government, financial, and healthcare companies back up their data every few hours because of the massive amounts of data being generated and manipulated every second.
In an effort to keep up with the ever-growing population and their information, many companies are implementing CDP, or continuous data protection.
In data protection terms, the time between backups is knowns as the Recover Point Objective, or RPO. Recovery Time Objective, or RTO, is the amount of time it takes to restore data after an attack or disaster.
A longer RPO leads to a longer RTO because there is more data that has not been backed up. In other words, the more often you back up your data, the closer your restored setup will be to the point in time of data loss. And the less work your employees must redo manually, the quicker the business will be up and running again.
To reduce both RPO and RTO as well as user frustration in the event of a breach, more businesses have made a move toward CDP, which ensures that data is backed up every time a change is made, resulting in minimal loss and a very short RTO. CDP can be implemented for all types of data, from a single file to an entire database.
Although CDP contains a snapshot of the entire information set at any given point, it does not replicate every piece for every backup. When a CDP system is installed, it takes a snapshot of the system as it is, providing a starting point, or ground zero, for each subsequent backup. With specialized code, the system can detect the location of a change and collect only the new data, using the most recent snapshot for all but the updated information.
In this fashion, backups take much less time and bandwidth, allowing nearly real-time updates to your stored files. Users are happy with CDP because they can typically pick up where they left off after a system interruption, and IT professionals embrace this method because of the ease and speed of a recovery effort.
5. Focus on straightforward solutions
The two sides of the data protection coin are management and availability. Up until now, this article has focused on data management methods, including backups, snapshots, and preventing data breaches. However, availability is just as important, because if no one can access the data, what is the point of storing it?
It is important to note that availability also refers to ease of access. In other words, data should be secure without forcing employees to jump through hoops (e.g., multiple logins, complex interfaces) to access it, which can slow productivity.
Easy operation allows for fewer user errors that could lead to accidental data loss or compromise. In addition, a complex user experience could lead to employees bypassing or disregarding data protection policies to reduce frustration.
When IT teams can customize access requirements, it creates a sort of “perimeter” within which employees can access and share data safely. Customizable access provisions enhance data security, eliminating the risk of exposing valuable information to a breach.
How WinZip Enterprise helps protect your data
WinZip® Enterprise features customizable access for employees at every level in your company. It’s easy to tailor data availability to each position or department, and you can update access at any time—ensuring that employees who change roles or leave the company have their data access privileges updated immediately.
WinZip Enterprise offers bank- and military-grade encryption, protecting data in transit and at rest. This enhanced level of security is compliant with all major standards, including Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 and FIPS 197. It also prevents data loss and extends corporate file protection with Windows Information Protection (WIP) support.
WinZip Enterprise also allows you to schedule data backups from the in-program Explorer menu and is compatible with some of the most-used cloud applications on the market, including Amazon S3, Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and more.
Ready to simplify your data protection processes with a powerful, customizable solution?
Learn more about WinZip Enterprise’s complete feature set to secure and manage your files and data.