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What is data residency, and why should you care?

What is data residency, why should you care? | Edgar Allan

When it comes to data residency, there’s a lot to unpack and understand, aside from the legalities you may have already heard of.

The first interesting thing to know is that data residency nothing new. 

In fact, the team at Edgar Allan would argue that it’s just a continuation of privacy and data protection conversations that have been happening since the internet first booted up and blew our collective minds. Only now, data residency has a formal name and some hefty legal implications surrounding it. 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Instead, let’s start with the basics, like: 

What is data residency?

Data residency refers to the legal requirements outlining where data, specifically personal data, should be stored and processed based on geographical locations. 

It’s a little complicated because different countries and regions have their own laws and regulations about data handling. 

Here’s an example: 

Some laws, like the EU’s GDPR, require that data about a country's citizens stay within that country's borders or in locations that meet specific data protection standards recognized by that country. In an age of data mining and selling, these laws ensure the privacy and security of sensitive information.

Who does data residency impact?

The short answer? Everyone. 

Basically, if you’re a human with personal data, it applies to you. But otherwise, if you’re part of any organization that collects, processes, or stores sensitive or personal information, you must adhere to the data residency requirements that apply to those operations. 

This includes:

  • Healthcare providers managing patient records
  • Multinational corporations with global customer bases
  • Startups expanding into overseas markets
  • Government entities handling citizen data
  • Educational institutions storing student information

Being GDPR-compliant and achieving data residency aren’t just concerns at an organizational level, though. These laws also impact cloud hosting companies, data centers, and software vendors.

See? Everyone. 

That’s not to say that data residency is a bad thing — it’s just complex. We’re also not the kind of people who think that protecting data is bad. (You know they’re out there.) 

Why should you care about data residency?

Data residency is important for a variety of reasons, but here are four big ones: 

  1. Compliance & legal requirements: 

Look, we’re not narcs, but ignoring data residency regulations can result in some pretty intense ramifications, including hefty fines, legal penalties, and damage to your business’s reputation. And besides, there are compliance benefits. Aside from protecting your reputation (and wallet), data residency and GDPR compliance go a long way in establishing your customers' trust. If your buyers know you value their privacy and will protect their data, they’re more likely to engage with you.

  1. Data security & privacy:

Storing data in compliant locations is good for customers whose data you have on hand, but it’s also good for your business. It reduces the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and cyber threats. 

  1. Improved performance & accessibility:

If you’re part of a global organization that serves customers in different regions, having servers in designated residency locations can lead to improved performance and faster access to data. So, by storing your data closer to your end-users, you can enhance the user experience of your website by reducing latency and optimizing data delivery.

  1. Risk mitigation & business continuity:

Storing your data in one place isn’t good, it’s just too risky. Natural disasters, geopolitical issues, and disruptions can lead to, at best, downtime and, at worst, data loss. But, if you store your data redundantly or in alternative compliant locations, you can avoid those potential disasters and ensure that your business isn’t interrupted no matter what.

What are some data residency requirements to be aware of? 

There’s a combination of technical, legal, and operational measures that have to come into play as far as meeting data residency requirements is concerned. 

Here are a few things to do if you want to achieve data residency:

  1. Legal compliance: 

The first step to achieving data residency is understanding and complying with the various laws, regulations, and industry standards that apply to data storage and processing. Think GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in the US.

  1. Data localization: 

Next, depending on the laws of the land or your industry, you’ll have to store your data within the physical boundaries of specific geographic locations or regions where your business operates. This might involve setting up data centers or using cloud services with data residency features that allow you to specify where data is stored.

  1. Data encryption:

Once that’s done, go ahead and implement robust encryption mechanisms to protect both resting and in-transit data. Encryption helps safeguard data from unauthorized access or breaches, ensuring data privacy and security.

  1. Access controls: 

Next comes access controls and authentication mechanisms that ensure only authorized personnel or systems can access and process data. Role-based access controls (RBAC) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) are commonly used solutions.

  1. Data governance:

Once your access controls are in place, you can establish data governance policies and procedures to govern data lifecycle management, quality, retention, and disposal practices. Some of what you might do here includes defining data classification schemes, data handling protocols, and audit trails.

  1. Contractual agreements:

Now that your own house is clean, you can look outdoors. You’ll want to enter contractual agreements with your service providers, vendors, or any third parties involved in data processing to ensure they adhere to data residency obligations and provide adequate safeguards for data protection.

  1. Regular audits & monitoring:

The last step to data residency is upkeep. Make sure you conduct regular audits, assessments, and monitoring to evaluate compliance, identify potential risks, and implement fixes as needed.

There’s a light…

No, not over at the Frankenstein place. Right here! It’s called Wes

We created Wes with the intention of streamlining and supporting GDPR-specific server deployment and helping you achieve data residency with minimal effort. Wes enables you to utilize server-side rendering and publish your site to private and secure servers in locations where GDPR compliance and data residency are a must. 

That’s not all Wes does, though. It allows enterprise businesses with data residency requirements of projects to use Webflow, which unlocks a lot of great stuff, from the ability to deploy massive amounts of data to publishing flexibility and more. Edgar Allan is an enterprise Webflow agency as well, and we developed this tool in collaboration with our biggest clients. 

At the end of the day, data residency isn’t just a regulatory obligation. It’s a strategic imperative for any organization looking to protect sensitive information, comply with legal requirements, and uphold data privacy standards. 

By embracing data residency best practices, businesses can strengthen their cybersecurity posture, enhance customer trust, and ensure uninterrupted access to critical data. As data continues to be a cornerstone of modern business operations, prioritizing data residency considerations is key to mitigating risks, maintaining compliance, and fostering a resilient and trustworthy data environment.

Visit Wes for more information, including pricing, integrations, and benefits.

Looking for a more ownable, easy-to-use platform to host your company’s website — and the security, compliance, and deployment process you need? Let’s talk

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