Companies are failing at managing their structured and unstructured data, and two recent reports illustrate the problem. Many enterprises don’t know how employees are using their data, and they deal with incidents of employee insider data hacks that can be as threatening as data compromises that come from the outside, according to Virtru, a data encryption company. In 2019, Forrester reported that between 60 and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. Both examples tell us that companies can do a better job at managing this data, so here are some ways to do so.

SEE: Prescriptive analytics: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Take a data-centric approach to security

Companies secure their data by installing network firewalls, monitoring network endpoints, and detecting viruses and malware as these elements enter the network. What companies don’t consistently do is take a data-centric view of security that monitors data usage from the viewpoint of who is touching the data itself, and when and where they’re doing it.

SEE: How disaster relief workers are using data analytics to support and measure their efforts (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Real-time monitoring, tracking, and reporting of who is accessing which data when and where can keep IT and data owners informed of how their data is being used so they have an audit trail of all access instances. This helps them ensure that data is being used properly by authorized users. The practice protects against information and intellectual property breaches and misappropriation, such as when an employee walks out the door with a thumb drive of information pulled from a server.

The data tracker tells you the location of the data download, who the user was, whether the data extraction conformed to a data usage pattern expected for that user, and where the extraction was performed. As a preemptive security and forensics measure, knowing where your data is, who is using it, how it is being used, and when it is being used is an important aspect of data management that network firewalls, vulnerability checks, and intrusion detection don’t fully cover.

SEE: IT pro’s roadmap to working remotely (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Tracking the data makes a difference when 25% of employees leave their work stations unsecured, a growing number work from remote locations, and 30% of companies report that employees are their greatest source of security risks.

“IT today is challenged by the huge amount of data that is being generated each day,” said Rick Jones, president and CEO of Iconium, which provides data tracking and context security solutions for the IBM mainframe, the platform for 60 percent of the world’s business processing. “Keeping data owners informed of who, where, and when data is being consumed requires tools that are specifically focused on data, which has become a new focus in IT because of governance and compliance requirements, insider threats, and company policies.”

Know your data’s lineage to optimize its use

Monitoring data use can also inform application developers and planners where, when, how, and by whom data is being used.

For example, if you’re writing a customer master file application for sales, you might also discover that the data you’re accessing is being used by field service, engineering, and even manufacturing. This can expand the use of your application to many more people in the company, which gives you better leverage and value from your data and the application.

“We don’t care about databases and schemas,” said Seth Proctor, CEO of Tranquil Data, which provides software for data tracking and discovery. “We are concerned about the lineage of the data and how the data is being used so that software developers can leverage this data for other data opportunities.”

SEE: The 10 most important cyberattacks of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Understanding the multiple uses of data, including where the data is not being used but could be, can even spark new products that build a company’s brand. For data managers, whether management is in big data or more traditional structured data, data management can be taken to a new level.

“Tracking data and how it is used is an exercise in discovery,” Proctor said. “The more you learn about your data, the better equipped you are to optimize your data asset.”

Image: Anadmist, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays