What is data governance?

Data governance is a system and approach for making sure data is secure, accurate, available, and usable.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Explain data governance
  • Explain why data governance is important
  • Connect data governance with data compliance

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What is data governance?

Data governance refers to the collection of processes, technologies, and policies used to make sure data is secure, accurate, and usable. Any organization that stores data, and uses it to make business or marketing decisions, can benefit from data governance. Ensuring data privacy, data protection, and data compliance are part of data governance, but governance also encompasses data quality, management of and access to data, security measures, and enforcement of consistent data policies.

Individuals often struggle to keep track of their important documents and files, like their tax documents, identification papers, insurance information, and so on. Businesses and organizations have the same challenge at a larger scale. Data governance is like someone buying a locking filing cabinet and organizing all their documents, so that they can find what they need, when they need it, while also keeping their private information safe.

Why is data governance important?

With new sources of data like user interactions with applications or data streams from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, businesses have access to more data than ever before. And with massive, near-infinite digital data storage available in the cloud, they are able to save as much data as they want indefinitely.

Data governance helps ensure that all that data is reliable, secure, available, and accounted for. It also helps ensure that confidential or personal information remains private.

What kinds of business objectives does data governance support?

Because data governance ensures data is usable and trustworthy, every aspect of a business can benefit from it. It helps the business stay functional by ensuring all data-driven processes like shipping, product orders, marketing, research and development, sales, and personnel management run smoothly.

Somewhat indirectly, compliance with data regulatory frameworks, which is part of data governance, ensures there are no negative business outcomes, from fines to loss of customer trust.

How does data governance support data analytics?

For data analytics to provide accurate insights that can inform decisions, the data must be accurate and of high quality. Part of data governance is ensuring data meets these qualifications. Data analytics based on inaccurate, low-quality data are not valuable.

What is a data governance framework?

A data governance framework is the defined set of rules and duties that guide how an organization operates in regard to its data. Data governance frameworks lay out who owns data, and how data should be stored, used, or accessed.

Data governance frameworks are important because the approach to data governance needs to be the same across an organization. When different departments make up their own rules and practices, the result can be inconsistent data formatting and security or privacy violations.

What technologies and processes are important for data governance?

Multiple technologies are essential for governing data. Some of them include:

  • Encryption: Encryption helps protect data from being viewed or changed by unauthorized parties when it is in storage, or when it is traveling from one place to another.
  • Access control: This restricts the availability of data to those that need it. Organizational data should only be accessed by those who are authorized to do so. Access control is particularly important for data compliance as well.
  • Logging: Logging helps track what data a business has and what happens to it. This provides a view of who actually uses it, and when. Logs provide a record so that data governance and compliance officers can make sure no one who should not be accessing data is doing so. But also, logging is essential to allow for auditing. And auditing is what demonstrates compliance to the bodies that enforce data privacy regulations.
  • Object storage: This is a type of cloud-based storage that allows for near-unlimited storage of data. The right object storage provider with proper security controls in place helps ensure data is accessible and usable across an organization. Other types of large-scale data storage include block storage, blob storage, and on-premises data center storage.
  • Data governance tools: These are platforms built specifically for data governance tasks, such as storing, viewing, and interacting with data. Data governance tools may include a number of capabilities, including features focused on compliance and access control.

How does data governance relate to data compliance and data privacy?

Data governance is crucial for supporting compliance with data privacy and security regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Securing data is part of a complete data governance effort, and not securing data leads to compliance violations and data breaches.

Data governance also helps an organization maintain data privacy, which is essential for compliance. How data can be used, who can see it, how it is corrected, and how long it is kept are all within the purview of data governance.

Data governance can simplify auditing. Logging, which is used for data governance, can help an organization prove compliance.

Essentially, without a strong data governance framework in place, an organization cannot guarantee it is keeping data private. And it cannot demonstrate it is doing so to outside authorities.

How does Cloudflare assist with data governance?

Many organizations, even if they have a data governance framework in place, rely on a mix of old manual processes and various separate technological solutions for data governance. These approaches are usually both complex and incomplete. The Cloudflare connectivity cloud is designed to unite the various capabilities necessary for enforcing data governance. Learn more about Cloudflare for data governance.