Deleting Data in the Age of Enterprise File Sharing

by Jaap van Duijvenbode on May 22, 2016

Once upon a time, deleting data was as simple as hitting a button. Today, methods exist to retrieve data from drives and servers that have been smashed, burned, soaked in water, or dropped from significant heights. Furthermore, many businesses don't even know where all the copies of their data are stored. Some data is in worker email inboxes, other data is stored in a public cloud somewhere, and still more is lurking around town on your employees' tablets and smartphones. How can you delete data for good under these circumstances?

Start by Consolidating Your Data

Before you can get all of the unapproved copies of your data hunted down and destroyed, you'll need to consolidate it and grant access to authorized users via a secure enterprise file sharing solution.

Begin with a good data management strategy, which includes consolidating the data in a secure yet readily available place, such as a private cloud or the Azure cloud. A single data repository is the only way to monitor, manage, and secure data these days.

Then Empower Controlled Access via Enterprise File Sharing Tools

Consider allowing users to 'come clean' without repercussions. Let them tell you where their secret data stashes are, so that together with IT, you can get all those deleted for good. Then make sure your file sharing solution is easy and intuitive so that they don't go the unapproved route again.

Consolidating data storage is just the first step. Without adequate access and the capability of using, sharing, collaborating, etc. the company's data, you will only encourage shadow IT. Enterprise file sharing tools allow workers to get access to the data they need to do their jobs, while the consolidated data assures that workers are always working with the most current version of any given file. In other words, it acts as a data management solution, document management solution, and collaboration tool all in one.

Safeguard Future Data With Strong Access & Use Policies

Of course, there will be cleanup involved in tracking down and deleting all of the data that got away from you before you consolidated the data. It's a good idea to offer a one-time-only period in which employees can come clean, admit where they've stored and shared data outside the normal channels, and get it deleted without repercussions. This will allow you to identify and do away with any public cloud storage (like Google Docs or Dropbox) where employees have been storing sensitive data, as well as any copies residing in personal inboxes outside IT's purview, and other hidden data stores created by employees without the knowledge of management or IT. Then enact good access and use policies to prevent future mishandling of corporate data.

Follow Proper Procedures for Retiring Hard Drives, Servers & Backup Tapes

As mentioned before, a determined soul can retrieve data from hard drives and servers, even when the data has been 'deleted'. Delete merely does away with the reference information the operating system uses to access data and files. It does not actually do away with the files themselves. Most ATA drives manufactured since 2001 have a feature called Secure Erase, but it's hidden unless you know how to find it. There are also some open source (as well as proprietary) products that do basically the same thing (such as Boot and Nuke), but it is imperative to disconnect the drive to be erased from everything else before using any of these solutions. It literally lays waste to any data it's pointed at.

Alternately (or additionally), the drive or server can be physically destroyed, either by one of your IT team trained in hardware disposal, or by one of the many companies that offer this particular service. Look for 'data deletion' in your area to find a suitable service. Be sure to include any physical backup copies of your data, such as those on tape, to completely wipe your old data stores and begin anew.

Ready to get the enterprise file sharing tools you need to keep your data consolidated and secure in this age of uncertainty? Visit Talon Storage now to see our customer success stories.

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