By 2025, more than 200 zettabytes of data will be in cloud storage around the globe, up from 2019’s 4.4 ZB and 2020’s 44 ZB, according to Cybercrime Magazine. This global proliferation of corporate data, both in the cloud and on-premises, can provide channel partners with new revenue streams.
Indeed, channel partners with knowledge and expertise in data classification that understand it’s not just about controlling corporate data, but also the role it plays in business intelligence, business continuity, disaster recovery and security, can expand the potential for new business opportunities. By providing a wider range of data-classification services, partners will be able to help their customers leverage public cloud consumption-based pricing and better control IT costs through better optimization and more strategic storage planning.
In 2006, British mathematician Clive Humby said, “Data is the new oil.” With data powering the operations of entire organizations (and industries), this phrase is more relevant today than ever. However, like oil, data must be refined to be of value — this is where data classification best practices come in. One of the most important steps a business can take from a data management standpoint is prioritizing data classification, or the process of categorizing data for the purpose of its storage, sorting and retrieval for future use.
While data classification is a rich area of opportunity for the channel, it does require a deep understanding of the customer’s industry-specific requirements, workflow and IT operations, which partners can address through consultation and technology integration.
Classification Best Practices
Data classification best practices should first verify the data that should be included in classification and access definitions based on industry or country-specific regulations, standards, and compliance mandates — including GDPR, PCI-DSS, CCPA, etc.
Once the important issue of regulatory compliance is resolved, companies can move on to the “nuts and bolts” of data classification, with partner consultation and support, in the following five areas:
- Identifying and defining sensitive and highly valued data.
- Discovering where the data resides and who has access to it.
- Classifying and defining data based on its value to the customer’s organisation and assigning classification levels.
- Aligning the right security controls and measures to ensure integrity.
- Monitoring regularly as a component of security controls for data management best practices.
Building a Successful Data Classification Service Offering
Enterprises have many competing priorities, but partners can play an important role in helping to elevate the importance of data classification, which can become problematic if not maintained regularly.
Channel partners and service providers looking to create data classification program offerings should prioritize value-added packages that combine education, guidance and counsel, in addition to helping to develop processes that keep pace with today’s agile and mobile work ecosystems.
Partners should also educate their customers on the consequences of poorly executed programs, which could include fines levied, or worse.
Effective data classification programs should include the following four components:
- Advise customers to be proactive and standardize the process early on so they don’t find their business in a compromised position later where resources are wasted on putting out fires or on extra expenditures.
- Encourage enterprise customers to involve all major stakeholders to identify and assist with creating a policy (if one does not exist) that provides a road map for how data should be classified and managed, stipulating ownership, enforcement and accountability for the process.
- Use the latest and greatest technologies to help companies comply with internal policies, automating the process as much as possible. This is where a call for request for proposals (RFPs) and proof of concepts (POCs) comes into play, steps which will require additional resources.
- Educate customers about avoiding the accumulation of redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) and unclassified data indefinitely. Not only does ROT data take up valuable server space and increase related energy costs, it threatens enterprise security posture and results in the negative impact of cyber waste on the environment.
There is no better time for channel partners and service providers to expand their offerings to accommodate their customers as they struggle to keep up with the massive amounts of data collected daily.
The ability for businesses to drive more value from information through data mining and analytics is critical to making strategic business decisions, which makes data classification best practices even more important. Not only are service providers well-positioned to help their customers make essential data easily accessible, they also can be trusted partners in the effort to manage and mitigate risk in an increasingly complex data and privacy regulatory landscape.
Christina Walker is the global director of channel sales and programs at Blancco. She manages Blancco’s channel sales team and overall partner strategy and ensures the program evolves to support the needs of the company’s growing list of active partners. Follow her on LinkedIn and the company at @BlanccoTech on Twitter.