Understanding The Importance Of Data Integrity

It isn’t just data security practices that will be needed to keep the electronic and physical data of your company safe. Strong data integrity practices will need to be taken into account as well.

While many businesses are coming to understand the need for data security, few, if any, appreciate the importance of data integrity. 

But in the days of GDPR and increasing privacy laws, the easiest way to end up on the wrong side of government regulation is to have inaccurate data. 

A simple mistake can cause everything from minor administrative headaches to significant fines and setbacks. This is, after all, the era of big data, so it’s high time businesses started getting this right.

What is data integrity?

Data integrity is a process that ensures a company’s data is consistent and accurate throughout its lifecycle.

Accurate data is highly important in helping a company's planning and decision making, as well as, in many cases, a requirement by law. This is why it’s so important that companies understand and implement data integrity correctly. All major industries, from urban planning to education to online share trading platforms to aviation to healthcare require data integrity simply in order to operate. 

How can data become damaged or inaccurate?

There are many ways that data can become damaged or inaccurate. It can be damaged in transit, as it is transferred over a network or to a storage device. It can become corrupted because a computer's hardware failed.

 It can become a victim of a poorly configured computing system, such as new software or security programs. It can become a victim of bad agents using malware. Or, it can become damaged as a result of good old human error. In short, there are so many ways that data can become damaged that it’s realistic to assume that at some point it will be.

Why data integrity is important

Accurate data gives the business a crystal clear look at itself, with all the details necessary for it to make improvements, and better compete in the marketplace. 

When data is damaged, the decisions it informs become faulty, ineffective, or worse, damaging to the company. This is why accurate and well-implemented data acquisition tools and strategies are more business-critical than many companies realize. 

What is data integrity composed of?

For data to be effective, key elements need to be in a place that ensures its usefulness.

  • Accurately logged. Data should include the author, date, and time of creation. It should also include appropriate, explanatory notes.
  • Properly formatted and easy to read. Uniform formatting helps the data to be searched and utilized efficiently. Ease of readability helps it to be understood.
  • Logged as it happens. The longer data takes to be logged, the more likely it is to be forgotten or inaccurate.
  • Kept in its original format. As data is utilized for various purposes, it should always be kept it its original format, with copies being used for other means. If it is continually changed as it is utilized, its accuracy will become damaged.
  • Free from errors. Ensure that data follows strict protocols and is error-free. Data might be logged in different formats (digitally or on paper if in the field), so there will need to be tight controls in place.

How to preserve data integrity

In order to ensure data integrity, it’s imperative that input is validated in real-time. An example of this would be a website contact form flagging an invalid email. Ideally, you’d want to automate this as much as possible, using digital forms that only allow specific information or reviewing paper forms when and where they’re filled out.

Once the input has been validated, the data itself has to be thoroughly checked and validated also. The purpose of this stage is to confirm the data is safe, meaningful, and correct. You can automate this stage by using scripts that organize and filter through your data, allowing you to efficiently double-check the data’s integrity. 

This process can be done throughout transfer as well - such as checking a copy is correct when a file is downloaded from the internet. Files can also be security tested to ensure that they aren’t part of a data breach strategy.

Once the two stages of validation are complete, a data backup is essential. By having two (or more) copies of your data, the likelihood that it will be misplaced decreases significantly. The easiest way to do this would be to make a physical copy on a USB or external hard drive, or otherwise to store copies on the cloud. It’s essential that the backup includes all of the original raw data as it was initially recorded. Different elements of data can easily be replaced or recreated, but raw data itself cannot.

Access controls should be implemented to any data systems, with access granted only on a business need basis. Unauthorized or unnecessary data usage should be prohibited, as it only increases the likelihood of damage. 

For example, accounting does not need to access tech support data. This level of access control should be extended to physical paper records, which should be locked and stored securely. This is extremely important for data security, as it is important that your access control extends to making sure users access your data on secure networks - such as those protected by a VPN provider or only within the business network.

Finally, you want to maintain a clear and easily understandable audit trail that records access to and usage of your data. Just as a hotel records the names and dates of guests that arrive leave, your must your database plainly show who has accessed it, what they have accessed, and any other actions they’ve taken. 

This, again, isn’t just part of a strong data integrity practice but will help in understanding any data security threats you’ve fallen victim to and allow you to make better security choices in the future.


Strong data integrity practices keep your business's electronic and physical data unharmed. As company reports and plans are only as accurate as the data they’re sourced from, data integrity is an essential business practice.

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