We live in an era driven by data. Inventory management, business intelligence, analytics, SEO, machine learning, artificial intelligence — countless aspects of modern life rely on a steady stream of information. The quantity alone is stunning. For instance, experts estimate that it could take as much as 40 terabytes of data to keep a single self-driving car on the road for a mere eight hours.
Naturally, the need to stockpile vast quantities of data has become a priority for many companies, both big and small, as they struggle to quantify, organize, and utilize the gargantuan amount of information at their fingertips.
With all of that data swirling around, it seems natural that companies would want to protect it. However, more than one out of every five companies reportedly have no plan in place in the event of a data loss emergency.
If you or your company regularly harvests, processes, or stores data, it’s crucial that you have a contingency plan in place. If disaster were to strike and data loss occurred, it could cripple your day-to-day operations. Further, if sensitive customer information is compromised it could also damage your public image.
Here are a few suggestions for creating a contingency plan that takes into account the various ways your data could be lost and how to respond in the event of an emergency.
What Is a contingency plan?
The first thing that should be clearly laid out is what constitutes a contingency plan in the first place. While it’s easy to define the term itself, it’s important to truly understand the steps that go into creating a business contingency plan of this nature before you go about making one specifically tailored to safeguarding your own data.
The basic four steps that go into a good business contingency plan are:
- Identifying risks
- Prioritizing risks
- Creating the contingency plan
- Maintaining the contingency plan
The basic idea is to start by researching and diagnosing what dangers can present themselves in the future, then organizing those threats in order of importance. This, in turn, allows you to create and then maintain a plan. Especially in order to prevent or minimize disasters that could occur in the future. The primary goal of the plan should be what steps are necessary to resume your company’s operations as quickly as possible after a disaster has taken place.
With this basic outline in mind, let’s investigate how a company can create a data loss contingency plan.
How to plan to protect your data
As outlined above, the first thing to do is to identify the risks posed against your company’s data. These risks typically can be summed up in two categories: human-caused data loss and natural disaster. Let’s take a look at each one in further detail.
Human-caused data loss
The threat of losing data due to human behavior is a very profound concern for most modern companies. Human error alone is responsible for 32% of data loss, with software corruption, viruses, and malfunctioning hardware making up the majority of the other issues — all of which directly relate to man-made causes.
Fortunately, natural disasters only account for 3% of data loss. However, it’s still worth taking a little time to safeguard yourself against the possibility of losing your precious information to fires, floods, and other nasty side effects of Mother Nature.
Creating your plan
One of the most important steps that can be taken to guard against both the natural and the man-made concerns is to ensure that you have a proper system to backup and restore your data. In smaller systems, this can be done with relative ease. Larger operations, on the other hand, may require a more extensive diagnosis of critical elements within the system that should be prioritized above others. In addition, an analysis should be made regarding whether their typically larger infrastructure is set up to facilitate a backup plan or not.
This is a process that is unique to each business. Nevertheless, it’s a critical step. A properly executed backup and restore plan allows you to get your business back up and running in minimal time in the event of an emergency. Some common questions you should ask regarding data backup include:
- What data is worth backing up?
- How frequently should you back up your valuable data?
- Can you move your operations onto the cloud? Or at least offsite where it will be safe from the effects of a natural disaster?
- Can you set up automated backups?
- How will you restore your backups in the event of an emergency?
As an aside, while backing up your data is a critical part of a good data loss contingency plan, it’s also important to protect your data from the threat of things like cybersecurity attacks in the first place. Protecting information by creating strong passwords, providing security training for employees, and avoiding the use of unencrypted devices are all key. In addition, you may want to consider creating a portion of your contingency plan that accounts for how to respond in the event of a security or data breach.
Creating your data loss contingency plan
All of the information presented above can serve as an outline or starting point. However, it’s important that you consider each scenario based on your own specific needs. Data can take a million different forms, from predictive analytics for a website to inventory management metrics and a host of others. Contingency plans should be carefully crafted for each system in use.
Begin by taking the time to consider your own company’s needs. Then follow the process to identify and prioritize risks. Create your plan, and execute it accordingly. Finally, make sure to maintain it over the long-term. If you can follow those four stages, you’ll be as prepared as possible for virtually any threat that might present itself in the future.