why is critical data all over the place?

April 12, 2008 at 10:44 am | Posted in Technology Trends | 1 Comment

Things are rarely going as well as they seem in today’s data centers. You would think that with all of the audits, documentation, procedures, and policies that exist today, everything would be very buttoned down. But as I visit customers, they candidly tell me it is anything but. Today, I just read a Business Week article talking about cyber-espionage. Interesting article, but here is a quote that really caught my attention, which really wasn’t intended to be any sort of main point in the story:

While hardly the most sophisticated technique used by electronic thieves these days, “if you have any kind of sensitive documents on Access databases, this is getting in there and getting them out," says a senior executive at a leading cyber security firm ... Commercial computer security firms have dubbed the malicious code "Poison Ivy."

Now here's the thing, in 2008, we should never even SEE the words "sensitive documents" and "Access database" in the same sentence! Yet, we do. And most folks I talk to who are candidly honest will admit that there is more data than they care to think about in more places than they care to imagine. It's not hard to see why when you look at the problem bottom-up. Databases like Access and (from the end-user's perspective) Excel, are and were super easy to use, and rather than wait on IT procedures and delays, they just did things themselves. Suddenly, they start to contain all kinds of sensitive data that would send an auditor (and some top executives) into a coma. And right now, I'm only talking about databases, let alone "unstructured" data like Word documents, PowerPoint slides, etc.

Data growth is exploding. DBA growth is essentially flat. End users are impatient.  Houston, we have a problem.

It is my opinion that the only way to effectively solve it is to counter it the same way it started: from the bottom-up. Starting from the top-down is necessary and appropriate, but incomplete.  Remember the words of that famous Business Analyst, Princess Leia when she was talking to the CIO of the Dark Side trying to shut her down: "The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers." First laptops were the big issue. Then came USB drives. Now more and more people are using online storage such as Google Apps. Users seem to always find a way.

We'll talk a lot more about this and similar problems in future posts. For now, if we just start to think about why end users are doing these things, that might generate some ideas on where to begin.

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