A company’s data resources are its most valuable non-human asset. Organizations use data in a wide variety of ways to meet business objectives and requirements. In some cases, a company must maintain compliance with standards designed to protect a specific type of information.

What is Data Compliance?

Data compliance is the term used to describe an organization’s efforts to adhere to laws and regulations related to collecting, processing, storing, and sharing specific data elements. The goal is to prevent unauthorized access or misuse of sensitive information. The regulations typically address issues such as preserving privacy and security for sensitive or valuable data.

Categories of Data Compliance Regulations

Organizations are required to comply with sets of regulations and standards for several reasons related to the types of information they collect, store, and use. Following are the common types of standards with which companies need to comply.

Data privacy regulations

Compliance may be required to protect the privacy of sensitive data resources including individuals’ personally identifiable information (PII). An example of this type of regulation is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which addresses the personal information of EU citizens. Another regulation that affects all companies operating in the U.S. healthcare sector is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which safeguards patients’ protected health information (PHI) with its Privacy Rule.

Data security regulations

Numerous regulations are in effect to ensure the security, confidentiality, availability, and integrity of sensitive data. HIPAA’s Security Rule outlines technical, administrative, and physical safeguards that must be in place to protect PHI. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) defines the steps a company must take to protect the security of its customers’ cardholder data.

Industry-focused standards

Standards may be enforced to address the data handling concerns of specific industries. Once again we can point to HIPAA which governs U.S. healthcare organizations. Financial institutions are responsible for following laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) which is designed to prevent corporate fraud and protect investors.

Data retention policies

Regulations may speak to data retention and deletion policies developed to protect specific information for a designated time. HIPPA, GDPR, and PCI-DSS all have provisions that address retaining data while it is needed and securely deleting it when it has served its purpose. In the case of GDPR, individuals can request that data collected about them be deleted by the collecting organization.

Why is Data Compliance Essential For Your Business?

Organizations need to focus on data compliance for multiple reasons that directly affect their business operations, customers, and financial bottom line.

  • Legal requirements – Failure to comply with data privacy and security regulations can result in substantial financial penalties and legal action against the violating organization. For example, A. Care Health Plan was fined $1.3 million for HIPAA violations.
  • Data security – Many data compliance regulations address data security. Implementing these standards protects a company’s valuable assets from misuse or theft by threat actors or market rivals in addition to maintaining regulatory compliance.
  • Operational efficiency – Processes and policies implemented to maintain compliance can often also improve operational efficiency. For example, the thorough inventory of data resources necessary in a regulated environment allows an organization to make more efficient use of its collected information.
  • Consumer trust – Regulatory compliance enhances an organization’s reputation and builds consumer trust. This can be an important factor in attracting new customers who may be concerned with the security and privacy of their data.
  • Competitive advantage – The combination of operational efficiency and enhanced consumer trust can result in substantial competitive advantages that differentiate a company from its rivals.

Data Compliance Challenges

Maintaining data compliance can be difficult for organizations of any size. The multi-cloud and hybrid IT environments favored by many companies add levels of complexity to achieving and maintaining compliance. Following are some of the major challenges organizations face in supporting data compliance.

  • Complex and evolving regulations – Regulatory standards can be notoriously complex and require a high level of technical expertise to implement successfully. Regulations are also evolving to stay abreast of new developments in the IT world. Companies that operate in multiple countries need to abide by local regulations, further complicating compliance efforts.
  • Complicated data discovery and classification – It can be difficult to accurately discover and classify data sets spread out over a complex IT environment. Failure to identify all regulated data can lead to regulatory violations and heavy penalties.
  • Data security – Regulated data needs to be secured and protected following specific guidelines. Companies may need to change current procedures or implement new ones to meet regulatory demands.
  • Addressing data subjects’ rights – Regulations like the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provide rights to subjects concerning information collected about them. This may include the right to delete the data, which can complicate long-term storage and retention policies.

Best Practices for Effective Data Compliance

Companies should consider the following best practices to maintain compliance with regulations that affect their IT environment.

  • Identify and understand all applicable regulations that affect your organization.
  • Perform data discovery throughout the environment to identify all information subject to regulatory standards.
  • Develop a data compliance policy that addresses the various aspects of compliance such as data collection, storage, sharing, and retention. These policies should be reviewed and updated to reflect evolving regulations and business conditions.
  • Conduct periodic compliance audits to verify the policy is effective.
  • Perform risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities in the environment and take action to mitigate any discovered risks.
  • Implement data security measures to protect regulated data. This includes performing backups and developing disaster recovery plans to quickly restore access to regulated information.
  • Provide employee training that focuses on the role individuals play in protecting sensitive data and maintaining regulatory compliance.

VAST Can Help Meet Your Data Compliance Challenges

At VAST IT Services, we understand the challenges businesses face in maintaining compliance across their IT environments. VAST offers multiple services that address the data protection and security requirements necessary for regulatory compliance.

  • Managed backup employs state-of-the-art technologies to protect your physical, virtual, and cloud environments.
  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) provides organizations of any size with an efficient disaster recovery process to meet compliance regulations.
  • Our Security Lifecycle Review provides an integrated understanding of your security status and visibility into risks that can be addressed before they impact your sensitive data resources.

Get in touch with VAST today and start taking the necessary steps to protect your company’s regulated information and maintain data compliance.