What is data discovery?

Data discovery is often a misunderstood practice. Commonly, it is seen as a technology process used in forensic and litigation proceedings. This could be a reason why important security technology is under-prioritised or ignored amongst data privacy and security professionals. However, understanding data discovery is vital to a healthy data management and risk management strategy.

Data discovery is a process that allows businesses to know what types of data are stored across storage sources and detects patterns of data, which, when used in security and privacy, typically represent personal, sensitive, and confidential information. By detecting these various data patterns, organizations can then make decisions that support business goals. 

Why is data discovery important?

Data is the new oil. It offers key insights and knowledge into consumer desires. We have all heard the phrase, “knowledge is power,” which is why all businesses in this day and age need to leverage data in order to stay competitive. Data discovery is also the foundational step to ensuring regulatory compliance. More fundamentally, it’s a key factor in determining what data requires the highest levels of security and protection versus  which data can be handled with low or no security considerations. This is a critical step towards ensuring effective risk management whilst reducing waste through elimination of Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) Data, and leads to better allocation of IT resources. 

We are living in a digital age where data is all around us. Businesses that leverage the data they have at their disposal enables them to derive new insights and continue to grow. In fact, the total amount of data created is expected to continue to grow exponentially – reaching 175 zettabytes by 2025. Data discovery is also a trending topic in the business intelligence community, illustrated by the fact that the global data discovery market is expected to grow 14.4B by 2025. 

Including employees beyond the C-suite in your data management journey can add value to their own work and therefore your business. When various departments are able to visually see key data, it allows greater understanding of risk as it pertains to data. Sharing data insights also ensures that your business increases its awareness of compliance obligations with laws and regulations like the GDPR and CCPA.

The Data Discovery Process

Organizations believe a data discovery initiative is a large scale undertaking, but the most important element is making a start. Now it’s time to learn what steps to take.

First, your organization must establish the objective for performing data discovery — are you seeking to know the types and locations of your data for internal requirements such as an encryption or data classification initiative, or is the intent driven by a regulatory compliance requirement?

Secondly, understand the scope of your data storage. This process must incorporate all potential locations where data is stored across your business including endpoints and servers, structured (i.e. database) and unstructured (i.e. files and emails), located both on-premise and within your various cloud storage providers. 

Some data discovery initiatives are for specific projects while others are meant to evolve into business-as-usual practice. Deciphering between the two will determine what type of strategy and tools are needed. Proactive organizations will establish new strategies and procedures for your team to follow in regard to data discovery, and research the right data discovery tools to leverage.

Finally, do you understand what the best approach to find your data is?

Manual data discovery is faster to launch, however, requires higher labor resources and is more  prone to errors and inaccuracies. Many organizations have invested considerable resources into manual discovery processes relying solely on departmental knowledge of assumed data storage collection practices. These initiatives were often disproven after independent review by a security assessor that utilized a discovery tool to verify findings in a given area of the business.   

The alternative approach is utilization of an automated data discovery platform, which is designed to cut down on manual time investment whilst providing a higher level of accuracy when reporting on results found.

Regardless of the path chosen, it is key to find an approach that meets objectives and is able to scale and meet your ever changing needs.

You Can Start the Process Now

If your company is looking to stay competitive by taking advantage of data or ensuring compliance with laws like the GDPR, CCPA, PDPA, and more, you must be willing to invest in this ongoing process as compliance to any standard must be thought of as a journey rather than a destination. Data discovery is not a one and done exercise, as organizations constantly collect and process data. A correctly implemented data discovery strategy is designed to find and alert you regarding insecure or non-compliant data on an ongoing basis. This strategy will ensure long term awareness and protection of data.

Ground Labs provides a centralized solution that reveals a single view of all the data stored across both cloud and on-premise systems including servers, desktops, databases, email, and big data. Out of the box Enterprise Recon includes pre-configured capabilities to find personal data from over 50 countries, which can be used to comply with laws across North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceana.

Other facts about data discovery:

  • Ground Labs’ solutions are built using GLASS Technology, which is powerful, fast and more accurate in finding matches (lower rate of false positives ).
  • It can identify more than 300 data types out of the box from 50 countries
  • Goes beyond compliance by creating custom patterns so you can look for confidential data including Intellectual Property.
  • Discover data within structured and unstructured data sources across a wide range of platforms (servers, desktops, cloud, etc.)

Data discovery is the foundational step towards securing your customer and employee data. Enterprise Recon gives your company the capability to find, remediate and monitor all personal data storage across your entire business regardless of its size or scale. 

Are you ready to take control of your data and streamline your security and privacy compliance initiatives? Contact us today.

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