Who keeps your digital assets safe and ready to restore in the event of a loss?

By Jim James,
Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

For a business to register for any social media accounts in a country like China, one must show company registration documents. That’s not as simple as it seems, though, because these are large documents that are embossed, printed, and kept in a safe. Digital ones are not sufficient. For that reason, keeping records are important.

Data breaches and platforms that serve as your backup

There are a number of ways to keep records. Most people believe that once an email has been sent or once it’s on a website or server that it’s going to be there forever. But actually, data breaches and attacks are common occurrences and these happen more often than you would like to know. There were even instances of Zoom bombing rooms before their new security measures were implemented where hackers tried to extort money from Zoom rooms, as they interjected rooms in high profile ways. This means that companies can be taken hostage by hackers, and if they’re able to do that, they can steal and compromise data. Its implications, firtsly, are that the breach itself is a PR disaster, possibly threatening the confidence that consumers, employees, and partners have in the business along with threatening the data needed in order to run the business. There are some fairly high profile cases where a fire, for instance, back in 2008 destroyed the Universal Music Group’s master recordings, and in the old days when there were physical assets like recordings, they got destroyed forever. Now, it’s easy to scan and keep records of all files, but what if they’re not protected? 

There was a Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Breach report in 2019, and it said that the average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million and that each lost record represents about $150 worth of cost. This is the staggering thing: on average, it’s taken nearly a year, or 279 days to be more specific, to discover a breach in an organization’s data. The biggest loss of consumer confidence, of course, is going to be in the loss of trust in that brand. How can people possibly trust a company once again with their financial assets, medical records, university records, or whatever records they may have if the company was previously hacked or breached?

There are websites like WayBackWhen that keep records of old websites and old data that were on those websites. Sometimes, especially in issues of compliance or claims about a product from which a legal case is brought against a company, sites like the UK Government Web Archive (UKGWA) create libraries of all of the websites and the documents that are available online. The current provider for the UKGWA is a group called MirrorWeb, which a company can contract to save their website. Similar to the Time Machine feature on a Mac, it creates a snapshot of the website and the data, so that there is a backup if there is a breach and the website is taken offline. It’s one thing for a website to go down because the servers are out, but it’s another thing for it to go down because there’s been a breach and the business is held hostage. These companies like MirrorWeb, and there’s another one called Preservica in the UK, enable companies to keep changing their web presence, but to have some confidence that if they need to go back a day, a week, a month, or replace an element on a website, they can do that and still meet compliance and legal requirements.

Keeping records both online and offline

Businesses have a continually growing body of content on their websites and social media platforms that can create litigation liabilities, which may remain on the web long after they were thought to have disappeared. Now, there is a whole industry in cataloguing content online, because in court cases, or for instance, defamation or any kind of a litigation of compliance, keeping a snapshot is going to be important, and this is what companies like Preservica and MirrorWeb do for companies and entrepreneurs. There are groups also in Stanford like the Stanford University Library that has been web archiving since 2007, but this is missing the era of the web starting with Tim Berners-Lee, as well as Google and Yahoo in the mid-90s. 

As businesses become more dynamic, with their websites integrated with video, commentary, social media, tweets, and the volume of engagement through platforms going up as well, it becomes an an archive of potentially valuable, but also potentially damaging content. From time to time, as a PR activity, think of activities you can do with staff, partners, and clients that will give them something tangible, something that will bring back a good memory, and something that Preservice doesn’t need to retain for you. Archiving isn’t public relations, but it’s a record of what was done that created the current reputation of the company. Capturing those records online is necessary to remain compliant to keep the business safe, and as a company tells the story of the business, it’s essential to keep those records to build the narrative of credibility. The history and the archive from yesterday are a big part of why any company has evolved to the what it is today, so cherish those records and preserve them, some online, and some offline. 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *