Everyone knows about the importance of data security. However, your data integrity practices are just as vital. But what exactly is data integrity? How can data integrity be damaged? And why does data integrity matter? In this post, we will run you through the key things you need to know about these fundamental questions about the integrity of your data.
What is data integrity?
Data integrity is best thought of as a process designed to ensure the data you hold remains both accurate and consistent. It should also remain this way throughout its entire lifecycle. Without a process to ensure this, using the data you hold to plan for the future can fast become problematic. Indeed, without data integrity, decision-making can be as good as guesswork.
Most businesses think about data security when they hear the words represented by GDPR or new blockchain technology. However, maintaining data integrity can also be a requirement in law. And regardless of any legal requirements. From aviation to education and healthcare to urban planning, most major industries just aren’t going to be able to function without understanding how to implement effective data integrity practices.
3 key components of high-quality data integrity that you should establish include:
1. Error free
To begin with, you need protocols in place to ensure the data you input is free from any errors. Any protocol will also need to take account of different formats to ensure information collected on paper is just as accurate as anything collected digitally. This can be achieved through input validation, inbuilt flagging systems online, or simple review. Automated processes can be established to double-check the data.
2. Uniformly formatted
Data can be accessed most efficiently when it is properly formatted, consistent, and easily searchable. Ideally, a secure version should be stored in its original format so that no matter where it is used, original accuracy can be returned to if anything becomes compromised after continual changes in different settings.
3. Accurate logging systems
As well as tracking the date and time of events, the author of any changes to the data you hold should be automatically logged. Ideally, this should be automated and happen at the moment an event or change occurs. If there are manual inputs required for any stage of a logging process, this should happen at the moment of change.
4. Backup your data
It is vital to have a backup of your data. Depending on your needs, this can take place overnight or more frequently. This process can also be fully automated so need not clutter your thoughts once in place. When you keep two copies of the data. And both begin life in exactly the same form. It becomes much less likely that you’ll ever lose or compromise your data.
How can data integrity be compromised?
With 1.7mb of data generated on average per person every second in 2020. And 90% of all the world’s data having been created in the last 2 years. There are innumerable ways that the quality of data businesses use can be compromised, be it through inaccuracy or damage. It could happen physically in transit or virtually when shared across networks.
Data can simply become corrupted without ever being moved either through malicious attack or simple hardware failure. Even with careful preparation and the best of intentions, system changes and software upgrades can cause issues in terms of data integrity. However, once data is damaged, corrupted, or compromised, it’s not got the same value to your business.
For that reason, even though it’s likely some data will be damaged or compromised in some way, it’s vital to ensure you know when it has. With good data integrity practices in place, this is much easier.
Why is data integrity important?
As you can see from the key components of data integrity practices, it is vital to ensure quality and traceability. However, perhaps even more so, it is important because it ensures recoverability. With proper data integrity management in place, you can also take a step back and retrieve your data in its original format. In this way, you can ensure the security and accuracy of all of your business data.
Here, we outline 3 of the key reasons that you should make good data management practices an integral part of your business strategy:
1. Secure your data
When your data can be recovered, easily searched, traced back to its origin, and easily connected with other resources, reusability and maintenance become easy.
2. Ensure consistency
With standardized, well-governed, and connected data, it’s easy to ensure quality outputs consistently.
3. Improve decision making
If you are confident, you’re working with high-quality data, you can be sure you’re making decisions on the best available data to you. Indeed, you’ll be able to make more detailed insights and drive ad performance.
Whilst often overlooked, data integrity is vital to ensure you are able to make the most of your data. You can also stay on the right side of legislation, keep your own data secure, and are able to easily produce quality outputs from the data you hold.