As enterprises generate increasing amounts of data every day, protecting it from theft and other malicious activity can get quite complex. Out of the many files and other data sources you have, some could cause irreparable damage to your company and customers if that data was stolen or leaked. That information needs powerful security. Other types of data, however, could be broadcast in public without doing any harm.  

Knowing which data needs the highest protection and which doesn’t is critical to mitigating risks and complying with state, federal, and industry regulations. It also helps you develop a solid data protection plan to secure different types of information with the appropriate levels of protection.  

It all starts with data classification.

Data Classification: The First Step in Smart Data Governance

Simply put, data classification is a process that helps you identify what types of data you have and how you’re using it—including who needs to access it and how long you need to retain it. It’s a critical step in any business’s data governance plan, or strategy for managing and securing data and making it available across the organization. You can’t properly protect your data if you don’t know what or where it is. 



Data classification often entails analyzing all of the data in your organization and putting it into predefined categories of sensitivity, such as Public, Internal-only, Confidential, and Restricted. Once all data is put into categories, you can determine the varying levels of security each category needs.  

Data classification helps you strengthen risk management strategies and compliance efforts. By prioritizing levels of security, you can save IT time spent managing unnecessary controls for data that doesn’t need the highest protection. Data classification also helps you keep the right information confidential and easy to access, while maintaining the integrity of all data.

Critical to Regulatory Compliance

In addition to helping you implement data security more effectively across different data types, data classification can also help you stay compliant with regulations. As data breaches increase worldwide, countries and industry organizations are tightening security requirements and increasing privacy statutes for data collected by enterprises.  

For example, the General Protection Data Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in 2018, is a sweeping mandate that addresses data protection and privacy in the European Union (EU) and the transfer of personal data outside the EU. It is one of today’s most stringent data protection laws and is forcing enterprises to reshape the way they use and manage data. Similar to the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), effective January 1, 2020, is the strictest data protection regulation in the United States at this time. Regulations like the GDPR and CCPA require highly sensitive information to be secured, retained, and managed in specific ways.  

By classifying your data according to compliance regulations, you can identify information that is subject to those regulations and implement the appropriate controls. Some data classification solutions, for example, are able to identify types of data—such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, healthcare National Provider Identifiers (NPIs), and so on—that correspond to specific compliance regulations, including PCI, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, or GLBA. These solutions allow you to create a compliance policy around those data types so you can be notified about policy violations and quickly respond when that sensitive data is mishandled or placed in the wrong location.


Rubrik Makes Data Classification Simpler

Minimize risk and conserve valuable resources by automating data classification. Rubrik’s Polaris Sonar solution automatically classifies sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), without impacting production. It allows you to easily gain insights into types of classifications processed with pre-defined policy templates.

Learn more about how Rubrik can inform and enhance your data governance strategy, or accelerate your GDPR compliance.