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Data disasters and how to prevent them

This article originally appeared on the 2014 edition of the ICE Totally Gaming Magazine, distributed to thousands of attendees at the event.

Data is the lifeblood of modern organisations. And just like the real stuff, you don't want to lose any of it any time soon. 

Given that companies today collect more data than ever before, how are many of them considering the critical issues of data management and backup? When the data hits the fan, it isn’t easy to clean up the mess that’s left behind.

 

They never saw it coming

Auditing firm KPMG, in its Data Loss Barometer report (last published in 2012), outlines the current state of data loss across various industries. The results show a yearly increase of 40% in data loss incidents and the most significant among these occur mainly in the technology and gaming sector. What is the number one type of data loss? Personal information.

No company can afford to take its data management lightly, especially when sensitive and personal information is on the line. That’s what a US hospital had to find out: the hard way.

The administrators of Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara (CA) were shocked when they found out that a technical mishap by their data management firm may have led to the unauthorised disclosure of personal information belonging to thousands of patients. 

 

Right under their noses

It was later discovered that the security breach in Cottage Hospital’s servers had been present undetected for more than three years. From September 2009 till December 2013, the data was laid bare to the outside world, like low-hanging fruit ready for the picking by hackers. Over 32,000 patients could have had their personal details siphoned off into the hands of unknown individuals.

Whilst the hospital immediately took the necessary actions to take the compromised server offline, the aftermath of this incident remains unclear. Cottage Hospital has issued an apology to its patients, but it still has to face the embarrassment over this big oversight and the consequent loss of trust from its users.

According to the same report by KPMG, the healthcare industry accounts for 7.6% of the total data loss incidents reported yearly, which is less than half the 16.4% of security breaches that government data systems are responsible for. However, it fares only slightly better than the technology and gaming industry, which together account for 8.6% of data loss incidents.

But whatever your odds of having a data loss incident, the consequences will remain the same. Cottage Hospital now scrambles to find a more reliable data management partner and risks being sued by its patients over this serious security breach.

 

Adding up the costs

Picture this. Employees who should be busy working sit idly while their work piles up. Customer service grinds to a halt under the pressure of incoming complaints and help requests go unanswered. Salespeople dealing with new business partners suddenly find themselves tongue-tied and stuck for replies in the face of a possibly hostile line of questioning.

These are the immediate costs of a data security breach.

However, the real costs of data loss are more complex. What kind of value do you place on precious information that is irretrievably lost? Professional firms like BMIT offer companies the possibility of co-locating data in multiple sites for extra security in case of data loss.

A 2012 poll conducted by Consumerlink in New Zealand found that 80% of the respondents said they would terminate their dealings with a company that suffered from security vulnerabilities that led to data loss. Almost half claimed that they would take legal action against the company. The researchers concluded that customers perceive data loss as a serious breach of trust and that they are ready to vote with their feet, and their money, if it happens.

 

Solutions

Almost all data loss incidents can be prevented using simple, manageable policies and procedures. 

The key word is planning. Ensure that you've planned ahead so that if disaster strikes, you're covered. Ask yourself (or your IT experts) what measures are in place to protect your data, which of your data is absolutely mission-critical and what would happen if it were lost.

The costs of housing, running and maintaining equipment for data management is not inconsequential. Organisations that manage their own data internally are forced to invest heavily in infrastructure and trained personnel.

The best solution may be to outsource data management to a managed service like BMIT that can look after your data for you. Furthermore, companies that use specialized hosting and data security firms decrease their costs even more by purchasing only the services they’ll actually use.

 

Up in the cloud 

Advanced managed hosting firms such as BMIT also provide gaming providers with hybrid cloud solutions for their data storage needs. 

A study carried out in 2012 by the Technical and Business Information Systems Department of Magdeburg University in Germany about data management for online games concludes that the safest architecture for cloud-based gaming, especially MMORPGs, is a hybrid solution that combines both public and private cloud hosting and thus ensures maximum data security. 

 

Better safe than sorry

Data management will surely be one of the major IT topics we face in the years ahead. It’s inevitable provided the enormous databases more businesses now find themselves owning. Speak to experts in the area such as BMIT and make sure that your data is being taken good care of from the get go!

Secure your data today!

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