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What Is Data Auditing? Why You Need It & How to Conduct It

by Chris Brook on Monday March 11, 2024

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Data auditing is the process of conducting a thorough review and analysis of a company's data to ensure its accuracy, consistency, and security. Learn more about why your organization needs to carry out data auditing in today's blog.

Data auditing enables you to separate the wheat from the chaff by assessing data quality throughout its lifecycle. 

What Is Data Auditing?

Data auditing is the process of conducting a thorough review and analysis of a company's data to ensure its accuracy, consistency, and security. This process typically involves checking if the data adheres to internal guidelines and regulations, whether it's complete and consistent, and if proper safeguards are in place. 


Data auditing also evaluates data management practices to ensure organizations gather, store, and use data appropriately and effectively. It helps identify any issues or errors in data, which in turn aids in making informed decisions and setting effective business strategies.

Why Is Data Auditing Needed?

Data auditing is needed for several reasons:

  • Improve Data Quality: Data audits can identify errors, inconsistencies, and redundancies in data sets, enabling organizations to improve the accuracy and quality of their data.
  • Ensure Compliance: With increasing regulations around data protection and privacy, data audits help ensure compliance by identifying any potential areas of non-compliance and allowing businesses to address them proactively.
  • Enhance Security: By examining data storage, access, and handling processes, data audits can identify security vulnerabilities and help organizations enhance data security.
  • Inform Decision-Making: High-quality, reliable data is critical for decision-making. Data audits can ensure that the data businesses are using to make decisions is accurate and valid.
  • Maximize Resource Use: Daunting can uncover data issues that may be wasting resources. Once identified, these can be addressed to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. 
  • Maintain Customer Trust: Data breaches or incorrect data usage can damage a business's reputation. Regular data audits can mitigate this risk and maintain customer trust.

How to Conduct a Data Audit?

Every organization is unique, so its data audit might look different depending on its particular needs and objectives. Conducting a data audit involves several key steps:

  1. Defining the Objectives: Clearly outline what you hope to achieve from the data audit. This could be anything from checking for compliance to better understanding how your organization uses data.
  2. Identifying Data Sources: Understand where your organization’s data comes from. This includes internal sources like databases or CRM systems and external sources like social media or third-party apps.
  3. Mapping the Data Flow: Document how data moves around your organization. This process, often known as data mapping, will help you understand who accesses the data, how it is shared, and how long it's kept.
  4. Evaluating Data Quality: This involves profiling to understand the underlying quality issues afflicting the data. In this process, check for inconsistencies in your data sets, such as errors or duplicates. Also, assess if the data is timely, accurate, relevant, and complete.
  5. Reviewing Security Measures: Ensure your organization has robust security measures to prevent breaches. This also involves assessing the potential impact of poor data quality on security preparedness and performance. 
  6. Checking for Compliance: Depending on your industry and location, your organization might need to comply with certain data regulations. Ensure your data management practices align with these laws.
  7. Creating an Audit Report: Compile your findings into a comprehensive report once the data audit is complete. This document should outline your data sources, data quality, security measures, and compliance status. It should also contain recommendations for improvement.
  8. Implementing Changes: Use the recommendations from your audit report to improve your organization’s data management practices. This could involve cleaning up your data sets or updating your security systems.
  9. Repeat: Data is never static, so regular audits are needed to ensure it remains high quality, secure, and compliant. 

The Steps to a Comprehensive Data Audit

A comprehensive data audit generally involves the following steps:

  1. Planning the Data Audit: This involves selecting an audit team, defining the audit goals, understanding the audit scope, and gathering all necessary resources for undertaking the audit.
  2. Identifying Data and Data Sources: The team identifies all the data types and sources within the organization, including both internal and external sources.
  3. Data Quality Assessment: This involves the evaluation of the data’s accuracy, consistency, completeness, and validity. The team would check for errors, gaps, duplications, and inconsistencies in the data.
  4. Data Security Evaluation: Assess various data controls to ensure data security, privacy, and compliance with relevant regulations.
  5. Analysis of Data Usage and Management: This includes assessing how data is used, who uses it, data accessibility, and how it’s managed and stored.
  6. Compilation of Audit Findings: After the above steps, the data audit report is compiled, outlining the findings, areas of compliance and non-compliance, insights about data quality and management, recommendations for improvement, etc.
  7.  Follow-Up and Implementation: After the audit, the findings should inform strategies for data management improvements. This includes implementing recommendations, monitoring changes, and reassessing data quality periodically.

The exact steps may vary slightly depending on the organization's specific needs, industry, and regulatory requirements.

What are the Risks of Not Performing a Data Audit?

Not performing a data audit can pose numerous risks, including:

  • Poor Quality Data: Without regular audits, errors, inaccuracies, and outdated information can exist in the data, leading to faulty insights and unwise business decisions.
  • Non-Compliance: Data audits help ensure compliance with data protection laws and industry regulations. A lack of auditing could result in violation fines and legal problems.
  • Security Threats: Data audits often involve assessing file protection methods. Without them, data vulnerabilities may go unnoticed, increasing the risk of data breaches and theft.
  • Inefficient Operations: Audits can reveal areas where data processes might be redundant or ineffective. Ignoring audits may lead to continued inefficiencies, wasted resources, and missed opportunities.
  • Loss of Customer Trust: If customer data isn't audited and maintained properly, it can lead to issues that harm the company's reputation, customer trust, and, ultimately, customer relationships.
  • Poor Decision Making: A data audit assures the data's quality, consistency, and validity on which the strategic decisions are based. The absence of an audit may lead to poor decision-making.
  • Inadequate Data Governance: Without data audits, it can be difficult to implement effective data governance strategies, as companies may lack a complete and accurate understanding of their data landscape. 

To avoid these potential pitfalls, companies should consider implementing regular data audits as a core component of their data management strategy.

Explore Digital Guardian’s Top-Notch Data Auditing Capability

Digital Guardian's solutions can be enormously helpful when it comes to carrying out data audits that can improve your organization's overall data quality and governance. 

Our solutions provide the visibility needed to identify weak areas and blind spots. Our data loss prevention can help identify and stop threats to data and uncover shadow IT that can linger undetected in environments due to poor data audits. Before carrying out your next data audit, learn how Fortra's data protection and IP protection solutions can help your organization improve your data management procedures.

Schedule a demo today to learn how we can assist your data audit process.

Tags:  Data Loss Prevention Compliance

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