q Data protection: building trust with consumers - Business Reporter

Data protection: building trust with consumers

Dan Middleton at Veeam Software argues that data protection is fundamental to business success and should be far more than a box ticking exercise

Modern customer experiences thrive on data. Knowing your customer, remembering past interactions and preferences, and using gathered intelligence to inform strategy is what separates market leaders from followers. Regardless of the industry or sector, it makes business far easier and productive.

A whole economy of digital services exists around this process, creating tailored experiences based on what resonates most with the end customer. At the heart of it all sits valuable data. IT leaders mine its value for the business. Cyber criminals also know its value and take advantage. Sitting in-between: customers, who believe (hope?) their data is safe, secure, and respected.

But reality may be different. Whether for malign or benign reasons, data gets compromised. Be it ransomware, data theft, human error or misconfiguration, the impact is the same. When data is stolen or exposed, customers’ trust takes a huge hit and some never come back.

Research sponsored by Veeam in 2021[1] examined attitudes and concerns consumers have about how their personal data is handled by the organisations they deal with every day. It explored the levels of trust in those same organisations to do the right thing.

Cyber-attacks are mainstream

The last 18 months have seen cyber-attack after cyber-attack hitting the headlines. Security vendor Check Point found 93% more ransomware attacks occurred in the first half of 2021.

No doubt fuelled by accelerated digital transformations as the pandemic disrupted work, domestic and buying behaviours , businesses have scrambled to make data available and accessible to stakeholders. 47% of consumers noticed the increase in cyber-crime and attempts at data theft, and 60% feel concerned about their data’s security.

Such concerns mean consumers are taking decisive actions.  Over half (59%) would refuse to share data with a company that has experienced a ransomware attack, while 80% would stop using a firm’s services if they suspect they aren’t doing enough to protect their data adequately.

Little wonder that they want to know what organisations are doing to protect their data. Businesses need to be similarly passionate about keeping data safe and a lot more proactive about telling customers just how they’re managing the situation.

Clarity aids understanding

Where to start? Be clear about why customers are being asked to share their data, and explain the measures taken to stay compliant with data protection regulations like GDPR.

Share more details on what that detail is being used for, the ways it might be used and what the benefits are for the customers themselves. Too often these details are either hidden in dense legal terms or are too vague.

57% of UK customers said they have no idea what companies are doing with the personal information they give. One-third (36%) may feel they’ve experienced some benefits, but an overwhelming majority do not.

Consumers are giving their data away and firms aren’t living up to the promises made in terms of benefits or information flow. That should change.

Of course, no one wants to give away the minute details of their data protection strategy, but it doesn’t take much to reassure customers of the care, attention and protection being wrapped around their data. A little insight into the work being done here will work wonders to tackle any trust issues.

Digitally native consumers get this, digital immigrants are getting savvier by the day. Businesses must demonstrate not just that they’re taking these concerns seriously, but that they’ve been doing so for years.   

Words are great, but actions speak louder. Businesses must also back their words with demonstrable action. Improving digital resiliency and ensuring critical operational data is always available (but in a secure manner) is essential.

Running a business in a world with a potent and evolving threat landscape, in marketplaces that are borderless and hypercompetitive cannot happen effectively without modern data protection strategies.

A new cyber culture

As with physical security, cyber-security is a matter of combining the right tools with best practices – the 3-2-1-1-0 rule. This means implementing backups:

  • with at least 3 copies of important data
  • on at least 2 different types of media
  • with at least 1 off-site, and 1 offline
  • and with 0 unverified backups or backups completing with errors.

Any modern data protection strategy must be compatible with today’s business landscape- one increasingly leveraging cloud-native environments.

Best practice means training employees in exercising good digital hygiene, in identifying phishing emails and links. Build them into regularly tested business continuity plans, so everyone is clear on their role should a disaster or outage – physical or digital – occur.

The Veeam survey findings show that with the right approach, data protection can be far more than a box ticking exercise. Not only is it a basic requirement for a modern business to have, but it also remains an important foundation to restoring trust in the digital economy.

The Veeam survey findings show that with the right approach, data protection can be far more than a box ticking exercise. Not only is it a basic requirement for a modern business to have, but it also remains an important foundation to restoring trust in the digital economy.

Dan Middleton is Regional VP for UK & Ireland at Veeam Software

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

[1] Veeam worked with Vitreous World to conduct a survey of 2,000 UK consumers that was nationally representative for age, gender, region, social grades, ethnicity, sexual orientation as well as disability in order to ensure an inclusive representation of all minority groups.

© Business Reporter 2021

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