Data is the language of technology, and it’s something that we all use, add to, create and learn from every day. But what exactly is data, why is it important, how do we keep it safe and where is it stored? This new blog series from Infotex will explain it all and keep you up to date with the latest in the world of online data. But first, let’s start at the beginning with the big question.

What is data?

When it comes to computing and websites, data is information. Put simply, data is every photo, video, sound and text in a computer, broken down into a string of numerical values called binary code. This code is made up of just two digits: 1 and 0. The smallest unit of data is called a bit, a portmanteau of ‘binary’ and ‘digit’. Then the next biggest is a byte, which is eight binary digits long. Data gets progressively bigger into megabytes and gigabytes, and then terabytes. Most computer users won’t need to think about anything bigger, but with an estimated 120 zettabytes of data generated in 2023, and predictions of 150% growth in 2025, it doesn’t hurt to be more familiar with larger types of data. A zettabyte, by the way, is equivalent to a trillion gigabytes. And just for fun, if one byte of data is a grain of rice, then a zettabyte is enough rice to fill the Pacific Ocean.

Enough of the measurements. Why is data so important? It’s the backbone of the internet, and with more of our lives and important files online than ever before, we must understand the importance of data and the impact it has on all our lives. The way we use, store and interact with data is always changing, and this blog series will explore data, cybersecurity, the cloud, and the future of data.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is all about defence. Defending data, defending privacy, and defending all computers and technology against hacks and attacks. While greater connectivity via the internet is a huge advantage, it can also leave organisations vulnerable to cyber attacks. According to IBM Security, the average cost of a data breach in the UK is £3.2 million, proving that data is a valuable commodity. Not only that, but when organisations risk the safety of customer data, the reality is they will lose trust from a loyal customer base.

Cyber attacks come in many forms, and fraudsters are always looking for new ways to infiltrate even the safest systems. Three of the most common types of cyber attacks:

  • DDoS: distributed denial-of-service attacks that render a machine or website unusable by the intended audience or customer group by sending immense volumes of requests.
  • Ransomware: planned attacks that can hold a website or service to ransom until a hefty fee is paid.
  • Social engineering: including phishing, pretexting and other methods to commit identity fraud.

These attacks can leave an organisation out of business and the loss of customer trust is a potentially enormous blow to deal with. Keeping up with cybersecurity measures is crucial for all organisations to maintain their reputation and the future of their business.

While there are many different cybersecurity features to watch, these three are proving increasingly popular online.

  • End-to-end encryption: also known as E2E, this type of encryption is common in messaging apps and is one to watch more for adoption of more generally.
  • Multi-factor authentication: many websites use this as part of their login, adding an extra layer of security by using single use codes or verifying customer email addresses.
  • E-commerce and Strong Customer Authentication: retail and e-commerce websites are making the most of SCA by linking customer’s payment portals with the website to increase transaction security.

We’ll be exploring cybersecurity in more detail in a future blog post, so make sure you’re following the series for more information.

What is the cloud?

The cloud isn’t a place, but a name for the collective online, on-demand availability of services — usually data storage and processing. A global network of remote servers supports and hosts the cloud and allows access wherever you are in the world. Tools like Dropbox, OneDrive, Microsoft Azure and Google Drive are great examples of cloud storage that you’re probably using already. Your data — which can include files, emails, or photos — are all stored in a physical location called a data centre, which can be anywhere in the world depending on your location. Google has 35 data centres globally, and Microsoft has more than 200 centres as of 2023. The quantity and availability of data centres helps the cloud work as a reliable tool for data storage around the world.

Knowing where your data is and how companies use it is key to keeping vital information and personal details private and safe. Where the cloud can get complicated is when the data privacy laws cross international borders, so it’s important to know which laws are keeping your data safe. In the UK, remaining GDPR-compliant while using cloud storage and cloud-based services can be a challenge. It’s a topic we’ll explore in more detail in a later blog.

Three data FAQs

No topic is complete without some frequently asked questions. And with a topic as complex as data itself, there are plenty of questions to explore.

1.   Where is my data stored?

Cloud storage is split over servers all around the world. In the UK, your data will be held in one of an estimated 517 centres currently. But it’s not only data centres that store information. Websites can store the smallest amounts of data, including cookies and user preferences. Your internet browser will store history, downloads, bookmarks and passwords. And your personal hard drive will store anything that you save to it, keeping your precious photos, work files and favourite music safe.

2.   What is big data?

“Big data” is what it sounds like — it’s data that is simply too large to measure using traditional means. Big data can be described using three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. Huge quantities of data, known as data sets, are used on a large scale for data analysis to spot patterns, inform decisions, train algorithms, and even tailor targeted advertising.

3.   Is my data safe online?

We’d love to say a firm ‘yes’, but the answer truly depends on where your data is held, which organisations are responsible for looking after it, and where and how it can be accessed. Third-party access is a big issue in data security, and advances in AI are likely to have an impact on the way we store data securely in future.

For more FAQs and answers, follow the blog series for more information.

The future of data

So what’s next for the future of data? With more interconnected devices thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and growing networks, the amount of data we’re producing is increasing at a rapid pace. The data market has been estimated to be worth $400 billion by 2030, which means we’re going to need a lot more security. Gartner has predicted that AI-enabled fraud will be a bigger threat by 2025, and said: “the consumerization of AI-enabled fraud will fundamentally change enterprise attack surface driving more outsourcing of enterprise trust and focus on security education and awareness.” This is a topic we’ll be coming back to in a future blog post, so follow us to find out more.

Author: John Harman

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