What is Data Integrity

Your data has a lot to defend against: user error, transfer errors, misconfigurations, security errors, cybersecurity attacks, and hardware errors. Keep your data safe from all these different types of attacks by maintaining data integrity. To remember exactly what data integrity looks like, use the FDA’s acronym, ALCOA:

  • Attributable – Keep a tight record of your data. Who’s viewed, copied, or edited it? When? Why? Every detail is important!
  • Legible – Make sure your data is understandable. Records should be permanent and include original entries.
  • Contemporaneous – Record your data as it is being observed and at what time it is being observed.
  • Original – Always have an original copy of your data accessible.
  • Accurate – Stay within protocol. Check and correct all errors within your data.

    This all may sound overwhelming, but there are a few easy steps you can take to accomplish the ALCOA guide. These tips will have you well on your way to properly maintaining data integrity:


    Store Data in Multiple Places

    Where are you keeping your data? The cloud? An external hard drive? Both? Having your data stored in multiple places is a good start, considering that every option comes with pitfalls. External hard drives can be harmed by wear, tear, and age. Most have a life expectancy of 3-5 years. Storing your data on the cloud comes with privacy and security concerns. So is having your data in two places enough?

    There’s a chance one back up will make it. But are you willing to take chances with your information? Two back ups are a safe bet, especially if you like to follow The Rule of Three. With a working copy, a back-up, and a back-up for your back-up, your data should be much safer.


    Maintain Access Control

    Who can access your data? Maybe it’s your family, your employees, or your lawyers and financial advisor, but whoever it is, you should have some sort of Access Control Protocol in place. You don’t just want to keep your data protected from those who aren’t allowed entry to your files. You also want to keep track of who’s opening files, moving, or editing them.

    So keep a log. Your back up device, or where you keep your editable copies, may already log data for you. Double check to be sure it’s doing its job of recording all views and changes made to the files.


    Run an Audit on Your Data

    When you audit your data, be on the lookout for several things: incomplete data, corrupt data, duplicated data, and incorrect data. It’s good to plan a routine check-up of your stored information to be sure everything is in order.

    If there are any irrelevant files, get rid of them. You don’t need duplicate files, or files with insufficient information that you may still be adding to. If any data looks corrupted, do your best to find the cause, then correct it or replace it from another one of your back ups.

    Finally, be sure the original copy is still accessible. This is an important part of ALCOA! In case of any damaged, lost, or misedited copies, the original is still safe!


    Now that you’re an expert in data integrity, you can start applying these tips to how you handle your files! Having your data properly stored, access maintained, and routinely audited will not only keep your data secure, but also organized and up-to-date. And who doesn’t need a little less chaos in their digital life?

    Meg Krafft

    Digital Marketing Assistant at The Security Awareness Company
    After starting out creating digital and print marketing for a real estate company, Meg now assists in keeping up the marketing needs for SAC. When not working she's probably watching a good movie or indulging in local art and music.

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