In this competitive age and heightened awareness within the consumer market, increased attention has been placed on protecting and managing a company’s data.  Regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and standards like ITIL® have provided additional incentive to the effort.  The prospect of adverse and potentially harmful actions against a company are an unwelcome certainty in today’s market.  These actions can range from outright litigation against the company or internal investigations for the company to due diligence efforts for mergers and acquisitions or meeting compliance to governance controls internally or externally.

Companies cannot prevent the threat of litigation or queries into company activities:  in many cases, the company wants these inquiries and even asks for their presence especially through compliance assessments.  However, precautions against the risk of these actions can be implemented.  In many cases, the status quo of handling these situations involves a number of people running around getting everything in order.  The more severe the situation, the more managers are involved trying to make sure that everyone is focused on whatever is required to avoid negative impacts.

The truth is that the work required should never resort to last minute scrambling to handle the situation.  When it comes to data, the proper IT and utilities need to be implemented.  Three categories for data are of particular note:  structured data, semi-structured data, and unstructured data.  Structured data can be found on any formally recognized database or repository in the environment.  Data found in these tools are typically classified for easy navigation and protected against security threats and loss.  Semi-structured data is normally found in systems like email.  They typically have the security measures in place, but no official classification applied.  This data is not shared with most people like structured data.  Unstructured data cannot be found on databases or in email systems, but found  hard drives, flash drives, or in paper copy.  These formats have no classification system or security outside of the owner’s actions.

For implementing precautions against the risk of litigation or investigations, structured data provides the most reliable source and greatest ability to mitigate the impact.  On the opposite end, unstructured data holds the greatest risk to the company.  For companies looking to improve their position for responding to these potentially dangerous events, encouraging having critical information in structured formats is the most advantageous effort.