Meeting regulatory compliance standards for data management has become a necessary step for almost every company. With so much data being shared over sprawling business networks, it’s more important than ever for businesses to ensure that information is both protected and readily accessible. As the facilitators of many company networks and the caretakers of sensitive data, colocation data centers need to take compliance seriously in order to protect their customers.
That’s why every company thinking about migrating assets into a colocation data center should treat compliance as an essential capability rather than an extra benefit that’s nice to have. Developing a data center compliance checklist is a good way for a company to determine what it needs from a facility. Even after a checklist is in place, it’s important to consider how it might be improved over time.
There is a wide range of compliance standards organizations need to take into account when evaluating the best solutions for managing their data. Depending upon the nature of their business, some of these standards will have higher priority than others, and some may not even apply to them. A company that handles any kind of healthcare data, for instance, needs to find a HIPAA certified data center that can demonstrate compliance with HIPAA/HITECH regulations, which help to protect patient privacy. If the company’s main focus is e-commerce, however, PCI DSS 3.2 compliance, which sets security standards for protecting financial data during credit card transactions, may be their most important consideration.
Data centers demonstrate compliance by showing the certificates and attestations they have been awarded from third-party auditing services that assess their operations and infrastructure on a regular basis, typically annually. Potential colocation customers unfamiliar with the compliance process may not know to ask for this documentation and simply assume that every facility is fully compliant with federal and international regulations pertaining to data. By understanding what compliance standards they need to meet, companies can have a better idea of what certificates and attestations a facility should possess.
While many organizations understand that compliance is important in the abstract, they don’t always have a clear view of how failing to meet those data center industry standards could impact their customers or the company itself. To better conceptualize the nature and scope of risk, companies should take a holistic view of risk that assesses how seemingly unrelated internal and external factors could play a role in compliance issues. This approach to risk assessment is known as integrated risk management.
By collecting a broad spectrum of data from across the organization, companies can use analytics tools to identify previously unnoticed connections between aspects of their operations and compliance standards. Every one of these data points represents a potential threat to compliance. With these threats in mind, they can better select a data center partner that’s capable of meeting their baseline needs and shoring up their known weaknesses. Integrated risk management also helps companies make a better evaluation of data centers themselves. For example, a data center might meet all compliance standards, but what about third-party vendors who offer services through the facility? Integrated risk management makes it possible to identify these potential blind spots.
High-quality data centers subject their operations and infrastructure to constant scrutiny. In addition to the ongoing, day-to-day processes that maintain operational readiness, they also undergo a series of intense data center audits throughout the course of a typical year. Whether these audits are conducted internally or by a third-party, they are critical to a data center’s ability to meet compliance standards. They also provide valuable insights into the operation of the facility itself, evaluating its power usage, cooling efficiency, physical infrastructure, IT operations, and security measures.
Since data centers must periodically undergo a compliance audit to renew their certificates and attestations, it’s important for prospective customers to know when that process takes place and how the facility prepares for it. Does the facility focus on maintaining audit readiness at all times or does it scramble to prepare only when necessary? The last thing a company wants is to see a data center fail to meet industry standards after migrating assets into the facility. Understanding how well it incorporates auditing standards into its day-to-day operations is crucial to selecting a data center truly committed to compliance.
While data centers hold the certificates and attestations to demonstrate their compliance with various regulations, simply colocating with them doesn’t remove the burden of compliance from a company. Organizations are still legally responsible for ensuring that their operations meet all compliance standards, which very often comes down to maintaining high levels of data security. As many high-profile instances have shown over the last few years, a data breach can cause serious financial and reputational damage to a company.
Assessing a data center’s ability to implement adequate security measures and maintain high levels of server uptime is essential to meeting compliance standards. A facility’s SLA will lay out its uptime guarantees, but it’s worth looking closely at the implications of those promises. While a 99.99% uptime guarantee might sound impressive, it equates to almost an hour of expected downtime during the year, which could have serious financial implications for a business. Protecting essential data with encryption services and blended ISP connections that guard against DDoS attacks can put organizations in a better position to meet their compliance needs.
Data center compliance is a major concern for potential colocation customers. Having a comprehensive data center compliance checklist can help them make a better evaluation of their own compliance needs and determine whether or not a colocation facility is able to deliver on its promises. Meeting regulatory standards requires a close working relationship between colocation facilities and their customers, so it’s essential that companies know what they need and what they expect when they migrate their assets into a third-party data center.