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Recent years have seen an explosion in the volume of data produced and relied on by business and it continues to grow. The IDC forecast study predicts that data volume will increase tenfold over the next few years, itself a significant increase over the period before. Data management challenges facing businesses are not just related to volume, but also to the nature of the information and its importance to both the company itself and the regulatory attention it receives.

The conflicting goals of data availability and security are also a consistent issue, particularly when applied to sensitive and high value information. High value data assets can contain a disparate range of confidential information sets that have specific value to the organization such as earnings sheets, product designs, customer payment details, patent information and so on. Assets often require different levels of access and security related to the inherent value and sensitivity of their content.

To complicate matters further compliance is increasingly high on the list of compelling drivers. Modern standards, like ISO 27001, require a Security Management System to be implemented that is based on an assessment of risk and for technology and process to be applied to mitigate these risks.

However, not all data is the same. Information that is of high value to companies, but is not subject to regulatory pressures like the Data Protection Act, is often overlooked. This information can be of such high strategic value that its compromise could have major financial or public relations implications and possibly disastrous consequences for the company.

Understanding Data Types

When considering the different scenarios within which sensitive data are used, and the risks inherent in these scenarios, it is important to understand the different types of sensitive data an organization has. A recent Forrester study examined the type and value of enterprise documents that contained intellectual property, and found they formed two tangible groups.

Secrets - valuable confidential data such as financial reports, design documents, product roadmaps.

Custodial Data - data that are held on behalf of others such as banking data, patient data, legal contracts etc.

The value properties of each group differ due to the nature of their use and requirement. Proprietary company secrets generate revenue, increase profits, and maintain competitive advantage. Custodial data such as customer, medical, and payment card information has value because regulation or contracts make it toxic when spilled and costly to clean up.


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