Data integrity means keeping the data your business stores in good condition. That means it must be accurate and consistent. Regardless of the kind of data you’re storing, it is essential from your CRM database to financial information.
Data integrity is essential to making improvements to your business. Your workforce needs the information stored on your databases to complete projects, whether enhancing the customer experience or analyzing profit margins from previous years. Maintaining integrity ensures the data they work with is accurate — the critical difference between a project’s success or failure.
So what are the best practices to maintain data integrity? Below, we’ve detailed a few. Implementing any of these could mark a significant improvement in your data integrity.
Validate Data Inputs and Integrity
“Validating” data means analyzing it, i.e., checking its source and making sure it’s correct and applicable. In a broad sense, you typically validate the information you’re sending or receiving. When it comes to data integrity, you should specifically validate any data being input into your database.
Data validation is essential. Defining “useful” data is a bit more complex and should be part of your employee training, ensuring every staff member is on the same page.
Validating the source of the data is key to cybersecurity. Database security is vital when maintaining integrity. An unauthorized user may not know the type of data that should not be input or may deliberately input the wrong information.
Use Audit Trails
The digital equivalent of a paper trail: you’re tracing a data change back to its source. If your validation process fails, an audit trail acts as insurance against data breaches and incorrect inputs, both of which are obstacles to maintaining integrity.
With correctly input data, an audit trail serves as a starting point for any data investigation. A good audit trail will show when data was accessed, what information was accessed, and the source of the action.
Keeping an audit trail is a repetitive, rule-based task and can be easily automated. You can utilize RPA and have a software bot keep track of database changes instead of requiring employees to log alterations manually, limiting human access to the audit trail and information tampering.
Remove Duplicate Data
Duplicate data causes confusion and ambiguity when accessing information. Although it’s good to have a backup of your database, you shouldn’t duplicate the same information on a single system.
Depending on the size of your organization, you may have employees you can assign to combing through databases for duplicate data and removing it. However, it may be more efficient to automate this. There are various examples of “file cleaner” software that scans your database and then displays or automatically deletes duplicate files.
There are many benefits to creating a backup, including the time and money saved when replacing data on a lost or stolen device.
When it comes to data integrity, having backups is essential. If you lose data due to hardware problems, software malfunctions, or a malware attack, it’s a big blow to your integrity. If your data is lost entirely, you will need a backup.
When selecting a storage option for backups, be mindful of your options, ensure the cloud storage you choose is the best for your business, as it relates to space and security.
Enforce Good Security
Security breaches and cybersecurity attacks can cause permanent data loss, a massive problem for data integrity. Yes, a backup will help; however, it’s wiser to prevent the failure from occurring by having good cybersecurity.
There are hundreds of ways to secure online data, and good research will aid in helping identify critical options for your business. There are also a few basic security ideas you can implement quickly. For example, look into practices like data encryption and having file permissions, so only specific people can view and edit your databases. Consistent software patches should be the norm to ensure there are no holes in your security.
Database protection may not be limited to exterior breaches; restrict interior access by ensuring only authorized members of your team have access to alter them.
Perform Frequent Tests on Data Integrity
Maintaining data integrity doesn’t mean doing everything once. To ensure things are running as expected, regularly test the systems you have in place – your automation for audit trails, your cybersecurity, and even your database’s essential functions.
There are many different database testing solutions online. When it comes to testing security, one option is to engage the services of an ethical hacker to probe your cybersecurity and find areas of vulnerability.
Hold remedial training sessions and lectures for employees to ensure workers remember the rules you have in place to maintain integrity.
Data Entry Training
Many best practices for maintaining data integrity can be automated; however, there will always be a human error. Training your workforce will provide better assurance of data integrity.
Train employees to enter data into the databases and learn proper methods to edit or remove existing data. This training should occur during employee onboarding, refresher courses provided regularly, and continuous education on data entry advice.
Promote Integrity Among Employees
Data integrity isn’t the same as a person having integrity. However, a workforce with integrity can affect it.
Through validation and audit, promoting employee integrity – i.e., encouraging honesty and transparency among workers – means more employees taking responsibility for the error. This also has the added benefit of improving team cohesion and will enable your team to work together effectively.
Stick to These Best Practices
The most important thing is remembering you’re supporting something, not fixing or installing it. This means being conscious of the integrity of your database and of the practices you need to maintain. To make sure everyone is adhering to set protocols, look into best practices for remote worker management.
Even if you’re not the head of a department that deals with database integrity, and are instead an employee, still keep in mind the practices we’ve explained. If you’re charged a level of responsibility for any database, its integrity is down to you.
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