Melbourne Server Hosting Iomart Feature

How can creative agencies store their data safely? Five top tips from Iomart Group

By Mairi Clark |

April 18, 2014 | 5 min read

If content is king, then data is the new currency. As consumers become more aware of what information is out there about them, so does their concern about how secure that information is. The recent Heartbleed scare proves that no company is safe from data theft, but there are some precautions companies can take to protect themselves.

Iomart, the Glasgow-based hosting and cloud computing company, bought Melbourne, a Manchester-based server hosting company in a £7m deal last year,increasing its network of UK data centres to seven. Melbourne is also the headline sponsor of this year's The Roses Creative Awards too.

While data storage may be seen as the unsexy side of business, it is often the one thing that people think about "after the stable door has been opened", according to Phil Worms, director of corporate communications, for Iomart.

“It’s like insurance,” he says. “People know they should have it, but they only really think about it after something happens. If you think about the flooding in the South of England earlier this year, there will be companies who thought their data would be safe in those computers in the basement. That same basement which is now 20 foot under water.”

That’s Worms’ top tip; any data storage has to be off-site. “As a company, you have to think about what would happen if something disastrous was to happen to your building,” he says.

“Companies have to have a scale of criticality. How long can your website be down? How long can you be without the HR records? Is it hours, days? Once you understand that then you can start to work out what level of storage you need.”

The black market for data is worth billions, according to Worms. “Companies get data from everywhere,” he says. “Newsletters, white papers, every time you buy something online. The ways that you can collect data and use it is like gold dust,”

The biggest mistake a lot of companies make is storing absolutely everything. “My biggest gripe is that the word ‘delete’ has vanished from the language,” he says.

“People store absolutely everything. How many times are you going to go back and look at that video of a cat falling off a sofa? It’s all about housekeeping. I probably get about an average of 1200 emails a day, about half of which are well-intentioned marketing messages. I have white and black lists that filter them, but that’s just me. If I’m on holiday, I’ll come back to thousands. People need to spend an extra 20 seconds thinking about emails once they’ve read them. Do you need to keep it? If no, just delete it then and there.”

With the onset of web TV – allowing more detailed targeting – people may become more reticent to give information, believes Worms. “There’s an innate fear of data, and what happens to it,” he says. “A lot of people don’t realise what they’re signing up to. If you think of how many times you update your Apple products, we all click on the ‘do you agree to the terms and conditions’. How many of us actually read them? You could be agreeing that Apple owns all your photographs or videos. We are very carte blanche about data and companies are now beginning to realise the value of it. Data is the new oil.”

Iomart’s purchase of Melbourne was driven partly by its close relationships with the Manchester creative scene. “Melbourne’s customer base has a large number of the North West creative agencies in it,” says Worms. “Sponsoring the Roses seemed a natural move for us, as an opportunity to recognise the talent and the passion of the creative industries in the region.”

So what should companies be aware of? Here are Worms’ top five tips:

1. Have a data strategy. Know what data is crucial and how long you can do without some data.

2. Ensure you have a private network. Your server shouldn’t be getting shared with anyone.

3. Test that private network regularly to ensure it’s secure. There are plenty of independent penetration testers.

4. Make sure everything is backed up regularly. Sounds simple, but make sure your staff know to back up crucial data.

5. Create a scale of criticality which allows you to judge where to store what data and how often it needs to be backed up.

The Roses Awards, in association with Melbourne, will take place on Thursday 15 May in Manchester, and is sponsored by Become, Chesterfield and Pitch Consultants. More information and tickets are available on the official website.

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