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4 Tips for Securing Your Farm's Data

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Written by Terry Schiltz |

Many of us hear industry folks and farmers throw out the term “data security and privacy,” but in simple terms what does it mean and why does it matter?

In today’s agriculture, much of a grower’s data is stored on someone else’s server, otherwise known as “in the cloud.” This is beneficial on a number of levels beginning with lower annual cost, convenience of not having to maintain application software, remote access to the application and data, maintenance of the computer, decreased on site data storage requirements, and finally the ability to easily share information with the grower’s trusted advisers and others with a vested interest.

With the above listed advantages, there comes a concern about how to protect your data from being exposed to unwanted parties and the possibility of losing data if a “cloud” provider goes out of business. A common question is who owns the data (in almost all cases, industry partners agree it belongs to the grower). However, a less commonly asked, but probably a more important question, is who controls access to the data (i.e. grower, landowner or the application provider)?

Here are a few good tips to keep in mind as it relates to data:

  1. Locate the “terms of use” within the software application, typically found at the bottom of the page.
  2. Place data on a secure website behind encrypted firewalls. In this case a username and password will be required to access the data. Typically, these sites will begin with “https:” in their URL, rather “http:”
  3. Know who has the authority to approve the sharing of data and who has access to the data. Data sharing can be good or bad. Most growers benefit by sharing the data with their trusted advisor, but it is important to understand if your specific data is shared or sold to others without your knowledge.
  4. Understand what value the data could provide to your operation. Value can come in various forms, such as better insights into productivity, cost savings, more efficient use of labor, simplified record keeping, etc.

Agriculture will continue to become more reliant on technology and the data that it generates. Proactively embracing the opportunities that technology adoption provides and being aware of some potential pitfalls will help you move your operation in the right direction. Most importantly: remember it is a journey, not a destination.

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