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4 Ways to Protect Sensitive Information from Your Customers

Most businesses store sensitive information in their files, such as names, social security numbers and credit card numbers. This information is kept to identify customers and employees. It’s also necessary for completing certain tasks, such as filling orders, issuing paychecks and handling tax matters.

The problem with storing vulnerable information is that it can get into the wrong hands. A security breach can quickly take a toll on your business, leading to lost trust, a damaged reputation and costly lawsuits. 

At Arkware, we highly recommend not storing sensitive information like SSNs and credit credit numbers unless absolutely necessary. If you feel that keeping this information on file is required to do business, we strongly encourage encryption. 

Below are four principles that the FTC recommends following when building a strong digital data security plan. 

1. Know what information you have on your computers. 

The first thing is to know what information your business currently has on file. Inventory everything in your workplace: computers, laptops, mobile devices, flash drives, digital copiers, etc. Anything that holds sensitive data should be checked. 

Once this is complete, it’s also important to assess what information is coming to you and what you’re doing with it. For example, who sends personal information your way? How is this information received? Who has access to this information? 

2. Keep only the information your business needs.

When you know what you have, you can scale down. Chances are, you don’t need everything you have in your possession, so why be liable for it? If you must collect personal information, keep it only for as long as you need it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t keep credit card information unless you need it 
  • Use SSNs only for required and lawful purposes
  • Allow mobile apps to access limited data and functionality 
  • Give employees the least amount of information they need to do their jobs

3. Encrypt all sensitive information. 

Everyone in your workplace should follow good security practices – not just your IT staff. Make sure employees are properly trained as well. Encryption is one of the best ways to protect sensitive data, as it allows only authorized users to access it. Other steps you can take include: 

  • Logging off computers at the end of each day
  • Running anti-malware programs on individual computers and servers
  • Restricting employees’ ability to download software 
  • Not storing sensitive information on computers without a secure connection

4. Dispose of what you don’t need. 

Identity thieves can do a lot of damage with a small amount of information. All sensitive information should be disposed of when you no longer need it. There is no reason to keep this data and be at risk for a devastating security breach. When disposing of information, be sure you follow the best practices. For example, erase computers using a wipe utility program. Shred, burn or pulverize paper documents. 

Security breaches happen all the time. Don’t let you business fall victim to one. If you feel that your clients’ personal information is critical to your business, make sure the data is encrypted. Contact Arkware to learn more on data encryption solutions. 

Importance of Good Database Design (and 7 Steps to Achieve It)

Good database design is essential for reliable, complete and accurate data. Certain principles lead the way in database design. These principles include not having redundant data and ensuring all information is complete and correct. When you know that your database is properly designed, you can trust it to make strategic decisions. 

Let’s learn more about the importance of good database design and seven steps to achieve it. 

Why Good Database Design Matters 

Let’s look closer at the guiding principles in database design

The first principle addresses duplicate information. Redundant data is considered bad because it wastes space and increases the chances of making errors. This is understandable, as repeating data can show up in reports when it doesn’t need to be there.

The second principle is that all information within the database must be correct and complete. If your database contains inaccurate information, any reports pulled from the database will be misleading. 

To have good database design, your database should be able to do the following: 

  • Divide information into subject-based tables 
  • Support the accuracy and integrity of the data 
  • Give Access the information it needs to join information together 
  • Accommodate data processing and reporting needs 

Seven Steps to Achieving Good Database Design 

To ensure good database design, here are seven steps to follow. 

1. Determine your database’s purpose. There are multiple types of database management systems, such as relational databases, object databases and graph databases. Determine what database will best fit your needs. 

2. Find and organize information. Gather all types of information you might want to enter into the database like product names and order numbers. 

3. Divide the information into tables. Organize your information based on subjects or categories, such as Products or Orders. Each subject becomes its own table. 

4. Place information items into columns. Decide what information you want to store in each table. Each item becomes a field and is displayed as a column in a table. For example, a Customers table might include First Name, Last Name and Address.

5. Specify primary keys. Choose a primary key for each table. The primary key is used to identify each row, such as Product ID or Order ID.

6. Establish relationships. Decide how the information is related to the information in other tables. Add fields to tables or create new tables if you need to reinforce the relationships. 

7. Refine your design. Review your design for errors. Create tables and see if you can get accurate data. Also, apply normalization rules to make sure your tables are structured properly. 

While you don’t need to be a coding expert to use Microsoft Access, good database design requires some experience. To have a database built or optimized for your company, contact Arkware today.

Top Trends in Database Management

Whether you work in database management, or your business relies on database software, it’s important to know what trends are on the horizon. As technology evolves, databases are able to do more things. They become smarter, more intuitive and more efficient. By being aware of the recent trends, you can be certain that you are taking advantage of the latest technology and security. 

Below are the latest trends in database management to have on your radar. 

Greater focus on security 

Businesses that store their data on the cloud are exposed to some risk. This is why it’s important for businesses and organizations to work closely with their IT departments to ensure all data is stored safely and securely

Database administrators identify potential weaknesses and software problems that could lead to a breach. But, you can’t rely on IT experts and database administrators entirely. Database security is also dependent on a well-built website, proper user authorization and strong passwords. 

Automated management 

Automated database management involves automated tools and techniques that increase efficiency and simplify maintenance. This leads to fewer errors and more accurate data. Plus, databases are properly updated and patched as needed to ensure that all users are operating the latest and most secure software version. 

Big data 

Big data continues to be an emerging trend, especially when it comes to big data applications. Thanks to big data, databases can make sense of large volumes of data coming in at faster rates. Some businesses are small and benefit from a relational database with more straightforward data. But, for large organizations and corporations, it’s reassuring to know that their databases can increasingly handle diverse data types

Cloud hosting 

Organizations continue to move their data to the cloud because of its simplicity and practicality. For example, storing data in the cloud allows businesses to store unlimited data away from their hard drives. This frees up space and relieves burden on internal hardware. Also, cloud storage can be accessed anytime, anywhere. All that is needed is an internet connection. 

When you use databases every day, it’s harder to notice all the changes they make. Each software update and patch has light modifications, but all of them add up to more efficient, intuitive databases that can be scaled to any business or organization. To ensure that your database is utilizing the latest trends, contact Arkware for a free consultation. 

How Can I Tell if a Database is High Quality?

Whenever we look at an existing Microsoft Access database from one of our clients, we are interested to see how well-built it is. There are clear signs that tell us whether we are dealing with a professionally built database versus an amateur one. If your application was created by someone knowledgeable and experienced, it should run smoothly and have few problems. If it wasn’t, the result is the opposite. 

Are you curious to know if your database is good enough for you? Here are the signs that your database is reliable and high in quality. 

Completeness 

Data completeness refers to gaps in the data from what was expected to be collected and what was actually collected. A well-built database won’t allow you to submit data unless all data is present. Otherwise, you would have a database with incomplete data, and this would cause problems when making strategic decisions for your business. When all data is complete, you know what you are working with. 

Consistency 

When your data is consistent, it aligns with the expected versions of data that are coming in. Professionally built databases tend to have drop-down menus with predetermined options to choose from. This way, the user can select from one of the options rather than creating their own, ensuring that all data is consistent. 

Accuracy 

Data accuracy refers to whether the data collected is correct and produces what it should. Data accuracy depends on the quality of your database, but it also depends on your employees. If your staff enters incorrect data, there will be errors. The good news is that a competent database minimizes the risk for errors. Elements that can be added to ensure data accuracy include GPS location, time stamp and picture capture. 

Timeliness 

Data timeliness means that you receive information quickly so that it can be used effectively. Often times, there is a delay between the expectation and the reality. The best way to ensure timeliness is by utilizing real-time data. Anything longer than this is not considered reliable. Real-time data allows your business to make data-driven decisions, so make sure your staff can use data immediately once it has been entered. 

These are just a few of the ways that you can determine if your Microsoft Access database is high quality or not. If you need someone to look at your database and ensure that it’s delivering the best performance, contact Arkware today. 

5 Reasons Why You Need a Good Database

Databases are incredibly important tools for today’s businesses and organizations. Typically, businesses start off with a spreadsheet and upgrade to a database later on. Databases are much more efficient and can help you run all aspects of your business, from customer transactions to inventory to sales. 

While you don’t need to be a coding expert to set up a database (Microsoft Access is user-friendly), it’s still a good idea to work with a database consulting company. This way, you can ensure that you choose the right database and that everything is set up correctly. Below are five important reasons why you need a good, reliable database. 

1. Accurate Data 

You rely on your database to provide the right information at the right time. However, the reports you run are only as reliable as your database. It’s important that your system is set up properly so that you can ask questions like, “How many units were sold last quarter?” Or, “Where can I reach this customer?” 

2. Customer Relationship Management 

Most businesses wouldn’t exist without their customers. It’s crucial that you choose the right customer relationship management (CRM) database and ensure that it’s powerful enough to store and process all customer data. In fact, some CRMs can help you launch marketing campaigns and send out email newsletters. 

3. Inventory Tracking 

Managing inventory is a difficult task, but it must be done. If you have too much product on hand, you’ll waste money. If you have too little, you won’t be able to fulfill orders. The right database solution will track all inventory and avoid the errors that occur with manual inventory tracking. 

4. Business Growth 

When you’re able to run reports, compare numbers, access customer details, track inventory, manage campaigns and more, you can take charge of your business and make strategic decisions. Eventually, your company will grow and reach new milestones. 

5. Security 

A good database is secure and protects sensitive information. It needs to be set up properly from the beginning, such as by limiting access to certain users, determining how sensitive data will be stored, encrypting information and having protocol if suspicious activity is determined. 

In the end, you don’t just need a database – you need a good database. To ensure your database’s architecture is optimized for your business needs, contact Arkware today.