As Google transitions from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) on July 1, data ownership becomes a top concern for anyone using their platform. While it's essential to ensure that historical data from Universal Analytics can be preserved beyond its retirement at the end of 2023, data ownership is important beyond the scope of UA and GA4. It’s critical to have a plan in place to own your data when using any third-party apps in case of product retirement or change.
Why is data ownership so important?
Here are just a few of the many reasons why owning your own data is key for every business:
- Control: Data ownership means you have control to decide how the data is collected, stored, accessed, and used. This ensures that your data is handled according to your requirements, and you can use it in a way that fits your business needs. Owning business data in your own stack means you can confidently delete old data in third-party platforms, knowing it’s safe in your warehouse with no expiration date
- Privacy and security: Owning your data allows you to implement strict security measures to protect it from unauthorized access or misuse. You can establish your own robust data governance policies and access controls in your data warehouse to keep the data safe.
- Compliance with regulatory requirements: When you own your data, know where it is, and control who has access to it, it’s easier to stay compliant with relevant regulations like GDPR and CCPA, reducing the risk of legal and financial penalties.
- Data quality: Housing your data in a data warehouse enables you to implement data cleansing and validation processes. This ensures the data you use for business insights and decision-making is accurate, consistent, and reliable.
- Scalability: When you own your data, you have the flexibility to structure and organize it according to your specific needs. You can customize the schema, define relationships between different datasets, and design data models for your specific business requirements. Data warehouses are great for handling large volumes of data, scaling with you as your business grows.
- Single source of truth: Using a data warehouse as a centralized hub lets you consolidate data from all your APIs, databases, and tools into a single source of truth. This makes reporting and analytics easier, faster, and more accurate, leading to better decision-making. You have more freedom to analyze and manipulate the data in your own warehouse than you do in a third-party tool.
- Access and retention: This is where the Universal Analytics to GA4 transition comes in. Data ownership ensures you have long-term access to your data, and can avoid being reliant on or locked into a particular third-party platform or vendor. These services may change their terms, shut down, or restrict your access, but by using your data warehouse, you can retain and access historical data for as long as you need it.
Trusting critical business data to a third party - or multiple third parties, depending on how many tools you’re using - is risky. Not every tool transition or retirement is planned and well-supported like UA to GA4. What if your CRM vendor files for bankruptcy, or your accounting software gets acquired?
These changes can happen fast, but they’ll be less stressful if you know exactly where your data is and who has access to it. Use your tools for what they help you achieve: Hubspot and Salesforce for campaigns and tracking leads, Shopify for eCommerce, etc., but pull the data from those tools into a data warehouse so it’s under your control.
Now you can rest easy knowing that if the tool you’re using falters the next day, your data will be safe and backed up in your warehouse. If your business environment changes, this also provides the flexibility you need to move onto other tools that better fit your needs and allow your business to thrive.
How do you make sure your business stays on top of owning your data?
Ensuring data ownership
To ensure comprehensive ownership over your business data, your team should follow a few best practices:
- Establish a data governance framework: develop a policy that outlines how data should be used, who can access it, and how it should be protected. Your data governance framework should outline roles and responsibilities, policies, procedures, and guidelines for data ownership, data quality, data security, and compliance.
- Classify your data: Classify and categorize your data based on its importance, sensitivity, and regulatory requirements. This helps prioritize data protection efforts and determine appropriate access controls, encryption methods, and retention periods for different types of data (PII, sensitive data, etc.).
- Implement data security measures: Comprehensive data security measures (encryption, access control, data masking, etc.) protect your data from unauthorized access, breaches, and theft. Update your security protocols regularly to stay ahead of potential threats..
- Establish data retention and deletion policies: Clear data retention and deletion policies help manage the lifecycle of your data and stay compliant with privacy regulations (there’s that GDPR again).
- Data backup and recovery: Perhaps most essential is your backup and recovery plan. Frequent, automated data backups and recovery process testing help maintain data availability and business continuity. These measures safeguard your data from accidental loss, hardware failures, or natural disasters.
Failure to own your data can have significant repercussions for your business. Data loss can lead to financial losses, damage to your reputation, and legal liability. As shown by Google’s transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics, some platforms may stop supporting their legacy platforms as they move forward with their new initiatives, leaving your historical data in jeopardy. Even if the platform isn’t transitioning, they may not allow you to keep data past a year or two, which could hurt insights for those who want to take a historical view.
Data ownership is critical for any business, especially those using third-party apps and platforms. It's important to follow best practices to ensure data is secure, backed up, and recoverable. A managed data warehouse like Panoply as a single source of truth is a seamless way to ensure ownership of all your business data - now and into the future.
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