Modern IT environments have many connections between individual systems. Operational workflows, application-to-database links, data warehouse feeds, analytics/reporting tools and published APIs are just some examples of these data connections.
They’re required to enable data to flow smoothly throughout your organization to drive business process effectiveness and informed decision-making. After you create a data connection, how often are you updating it? For most companies, the possible answers are never, when a security breach happens or when a system is replaced. That isn’t good enough!
If you want to keep your IT environment secure and running efficiently and derive the most value from your data, then you must have a consistent policy and process for updating and reviewing all of your data connections at least twice per year and ideally every few months. Frequent audits of your data connections will help you identify where your IT environment is changing (even if your change-control process missed it), understand where and how data is being used throughout your business and reduce the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive company and customer data.
The following are three key reasons why you must update your data connections regularly.
Keeping your data secure
Data connections create two information security risks. The first is unauthorized access to data. Stored passwords embedded in applications and other IT systems are easy for hackers, disgruntled employees and others to obtain and use to access the data in your source systems. This can both compromise your data integrity (potential for fraudulent behavior) and increase the risk of data breaches (like those in the news every month).
The credentials from your data connections can also be used to create new connections that may not conform to your company’s security protocols. Updating your data connections and changing credentials frequently makes it more difficult for your data connections to be hijacked and used for unauthorized purposes. If a connection is compromised, then a password change can help close the window of opportunity for the vulnerability to be exploited.
Validating data use
Reviewing and updating data connections periodically provides an excellent opportunity to validate and update your understanding of how data is flowing throughout your organization and its use. In addition to updating credentials, your data connection audit should include a review of what data is flowing through the connection, how often and what downstream business processes/activities are dependent on the data. This is important because it helps you understand when data connections have become obsolete and can be retired, consolidated or streamlined. Simplification of your data connections can help data flow faster, reduce the overhead cost of maintaining unused data and ensure your data governance policies are being enforced.
Leveraging new data when it is available
Most IT systems are continuously evolving with new versions of software platforms, applications, and analytics systems, causing changes to the data available for other systems and processes to use. Updates to your data connections should include a review of what data is available to downstream systems and informed decisions about what data to expose and/or replicate through each data connection.
For example, a new version of a CRM application may include additional attributes about a customer that could be used to improve marketing analytics and customer-segmentation reporting for product development. A review of your data connections provides an opportunity for you to identify changes to data schemas or content and decide what elements and attributes should be included in your data connections.
Regular review and updates of your data connections can be a time-consuming process if you are managing many point-to-point interfaces between components in your IT environment. Leveraging a hybrid integration platform as a data hub, such as Actian DataConnect, can make this task much easier (and cheaper).
With Actian DataConnect, you’ll be able to manage all the data connections throughout your ecosystem in a centralized place. You can see your connections easily, when they were last updated and what data is flowing, and how often. With good data-stewardship practices and the right set of integration tools, you will be able to keep your data secure and flowing smoothly. To learn more, visit www.actian.com/dataconnect.