June 30, 2015 by Jatheon

3 simple steps to keep the audit process short and sweet

The auditing process is rarely fun. It usually requires extra time and effort on the part of the staff and can lead to penalties and fines if records haven’t been maintained appropriately. There’s little to be gained from a successful audit, except the knowledge that an organization has been accurately archiving its relevant records and can work well with investigators.

The fact that audits aren’t fun doesn’t mean they have to be long, arduous or particularly difficult processes. With the right approach to planning and the most effective tools in place, businesses can boost their compliance efforts and develop data archive solutions that work. To that effect, here are three simple steps that keep the audit process short and sweet:

“Archiving is the right choice for regulatory and compliance needs, including audits.”

1. Archiving, not backup
Backup tools have their place in many businesses, but they’re not especially suited for specific needs of the audit process. Backups can replace data lost up to a certain point in a working environment, but that data is neither optimized for search nor indexed. The most important thing to note in the backup versus archive discussion is information held as a backup often doesn’t meet the rules and regulations of auditors while archived data generally does. Archiving also takes stress off the servers businesses use daily and keeps archived information secure and separate.

In short, archiving is the right choice for regulatory and compliance needs, including audits.

2. Use an archiving platform that has strong indexing capabilities
Unstructured data like logs from chat programs, social media posts and emails are all more easily searched through than the hard copies of decades past. In an audit environment, it’s no longer necessary to physically dig in a file cabinet and thumb through folders until the right file is found. The digital nature of unstructured data makes it possible to search through using just a keyboard.

However, the existing potential to use search to quickly and accurately find necessary data doesn’t mean it’s always possible. Even email, which is often internally searchable, becomes unwieldy in terms of sheer volume after a relatively short period of regular use. Chat logs may be kept for a short period of time and then deleted by software suppliers, and digging up years-old social media data is usually an exercise in frustration.

A system that automatically archives unstructured data no matter the type archives it – instead of simply creating a backup – and stores it securely enables the consistent, accurate granular search capabilities that reduce audit timelines and improve compliance. The indexing of data beyond what’s done inside the email window, chat program or social network is also crucial. Indexing captures not only the text involved but also the metadata such as attachments and other content.

In terms of full audit compliance, access to any and all associated information is crucial. An archiving tool that also catalogs both incoming and outgoing information is also a necessity. Finally, the ability to set individualized key terms and associated notifications and powerful search functions that can find any and all information stored are both crucial measures.

3. Strong policies and trails
An archiving solution fills many technical needs and offers methods to bring organizations into full compliance. However, the tools themselves won’t improve such efforts. Companies also need the right policies in place and make sure audit trails are easy to follow. A strong archiving platform will take care of much of the audit trail work, but business leaders need to make sure they’re setting effective policies and remaining in compliance with changes to rules and regulations. Much of this effort is industry specific, but there’s a general need to dedicate time and resources to such efforts regardless of the type of work a company in which a company is engaged.

These three pieces of advice won’t make audits fun for you or the rest of the staff members in your office, but they can make them much more manageable. An effective archiving solution that offers indexing capabilities and securely stores data, along with the right policies and the ability to easily follow audit trails, makes these investigations much less of a problem.

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