Linda W. Perkins

Mining for Data: Use It, Don't Lose It

Percento Technologies - February 18, 2016

Data mining. It’s been likened to panning for gold. You’re sifting through massive amounts of information for some key nuggets that will help you make better business decisions.

If you’re trying to decide how to launch a new product, wouldn’t it be helpful to know more than what other competitive products are in the market, but also how they are priced, what your customers are saying about them, and whether their sales are trending up or down? Of course, you’d also need to look at your raw materials cost and availability, manufacturing costs, marketing costs, and how to position your product in the distribution channel. And that’s just before the product launch. Managing it in the marketplace comes with a whole set of other issues.

Part of the issue with gathering the data is figuring out where it is all located. Oftentimes, it is widely distributed across sales, marketing, manufacturing, customer service, and even in the field with channel partners. Some is at headquarters, while some is off-site. Some is in the cloud. Then, if you can locate it all, there’s still the issue of capturing it all, making it searchable, and shareable in a meaningful way.

Systems integrators have come a long way in developing ways to help companies’ software systems “speak” to each other, pulling data from one system into another, enabling analysis from one centralized console or dashboard. From simple solutions like writing APIs to full-blown enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business intelligence (BI) systems, there are ways to make data mining work for you. And its impact can have far reaching value, from better product pricing to corporate merger or acquisition decisions.

That said, one of the surest ways to keep all this data from ever being an effective business tool is to fail to adequately protect it.

While the information security industry is primarily focused on intrusion prevention, antivirus/malware protection, and the “insider threat,” the biggest threat to your data is actually something far more obvious.

According to multiple studies done in the last few years, the top three causes of corporate data loss and system downtime are hardware failure, power loss, and software failure.

With system downtime costing companies an average of over $350,000 a year, you would think organizations would be taking appropriate steps to make sure operating systems are kept up-to-date, and that backup and recovery would be priorities.

Studies have shown that isn’t always the case, however. In one survey, 38 percent of respondents admitted they worry about their data not being saved securely or whether any work has been backed up at all. In another study, 29 percent of companies did not have any formal disaster recovery or contingency plan in place.

These statistics are surprising, given the significant amount of time and investment companies are spending on data mining. Why put such critical data at risk?

For many organizations, it comes down to manpower and IT budgets. When IT dollars are stretched thin and time is crunched, big projects are often put on the top of the priority list, while simple maintenance tasks are put on the backburners. It’s easy to assume that new hardware won’t fail, or that it’s OK to keep using software that hasn’t been updated for a while. No one anticipates loss of power, either.

One of the reasons for the growth in cloud computing is the ability to backup and store massive amounts of data in remote locations, insuring against catastrophic data loss and minimizing costly down time. This is especially critical for companies that are in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, which can cause widespread infrastructure damage, with power losses for days and weeks.

Even for companies using cloud storage, a formal backup and recovery plan should always be in place that includes scheduled backups and maintenance. Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and applications, running on both servers and desktops, have frequent patches and security updates that are issued in order to help companies avoid data loss. For organizations with limited IT personnel resources, managed services providers (MSPs) can perform these important maintenance and security functions at a reasonable cost, while allowing in-house staff to focus on other technology projects.

Software-as-a-service is another option that can give IT executives the security of having the latest updates and cloud-based data backups without requiring any manual effort on the part of their in-house team.

Mining for Data: Use It, Don't Lose It