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What is data encryption, really?

You might have heard of data encryption before, but what, exactly, is it? What role does data encryption play in securing your business, customer, and staff information? How can you use encryption to safeguard your most critical data?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions. We’ll take a good, hard look at what data encryption is, the two main types of data encryption, and the top four types of business data you should be encrypting.

What is encryption?

The purpose of encryption is to protect digital information and data confidentiality.

In simple terms, data encryption takes a chunk of data and transforms it into a new form. This new form can only be read by individuals who have access to the special key. No key means no reading the data.

With companies of all sizes switching to cloud-based applications to manage and store their data and complete day-to-day activities, encrypting data has never been more critical. Data mobility certainly has its benefits – streamlined collaboration, remote access, and reduced IT costs, to name a few. But it also gives malicious thieves more entry points to personal and business information and networks.

And this can prove disastrous without the proper protective measures in place.

Two categories of data encryption

Data encryption – sometimes referred to as data masking – comes in two fundamental categories: static and dynamic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so let’s take a look in more detail.

What is static data encryption?

Static data encryption protects sensitive data by permanently masking data at rest. Static data encryption is a great method for those looking to protect huge volumes of information in their business.

What is dynamic data encryption?

Dynamic data encryption is the newer method of masking – it protects sensitive data by masking data in transit. The original, at rest data remains unchanged.

What types of data should I encrypt?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, such as the type of business you are running, the type of information you store, how your workers collaborate, and more.

Here’s a short list of the top four types of data we suggest every business – small, medium, or large – takes the time to back up and encrypt to improve cybersecurity.

1. Customer information

First and foremost, all businesses that store any form of customer information – from email addresses through healthcare records – should encrypt it.

The financial and medical industries are subject to government regulations that ensure the protection of customer information. If you operate within these industries, these regulations require you  to meet specific data encryption obligations.

If you don’t operate within the finance or health industry, you are still responsible to take customer data protection seriously. Think about it this way: if a breach were to happen, how would your customers feel? Would they hold you accountable if didn’t take any steps toward protecting their personal, private information? It’s your business’s reputation on the line.

2. Research data

If you invest a substantial amount of time and money into research and development, it’s probably worth encrypting this work since it’s your intellectual property – and your competitive advantage. This area of encryption can be tricky, especially if you tend to share this type of data around your company.

3. Financial reports

As a business owner, you only give a select few direct access to your financial reports. Take your protective measures to the next level by consolidating your financial data in a secure location and encrypting those raw calculations and reports.

4. Product release information

Does your business have a master document outlining your product release schedule for the next 24 months? That sounds like something you’d want to protect too, and quality managed IT services can help.