Small businesses should have thorough, regular—and secure—processes for gathering, storing and interpreting data, which in the “Information Age” has become critical to staying a step ahead of competitors and the marketplace as a whole.
Without deliberately planning and engineering the most effective ways to integrate various types of data flows in every part of your business operations, you can’t fully understand how data can help you make key decisions and otherwise leverage its benefits for key purposes.
Mapping your data—classifying it based on where it’s housed, how it moves, and how it will be used, likely with help from artificial intelligence (AI)—is key to providing this kind of visibility and seamlessness needed to make the most effective and efficient use of it.
Your business data also should be classified by sensitivity level, with appropriate safeguards to ensure that it’s being used in a way that maintains any regulatory compliance and is protected from those who seek to breach your cybersecurity assets.
Shielding such sensitive customer, supplier and financial data is critically important to your enterprise, both to keep current with ever-tighter privacy regulations put in place as cyber threats grow, but also simultaneously to safeguard that data for the business’ own benefit.
This can mean, for example, scrubbing employees’ e-mails of data that shouldn’t be left unencrypted, keeping credit card and other information behind appropriately impenetrable firewalls, ensuring that protocols are in place around who has access to what databases, and in general most securely managing your information.
In doing so, however, your business cannot afford to lock down data so tightly that you’re unable to access and enable it as needed to function and stay competitive. Striking this balance will be essential to your success going forward.
The key to every data management process is SECURITY. The SBA offers practical advice to small business owners to protect from cybersecurity threats and business owners are well advised to take proactive measures to protect their business interests.