Is the data you use in your business really yours? Or does it seem like it's used by companies like Facebook and Google to advance their own cause?
For anyone involved in a business, being able to manage your own data is important, mostly for privacy and security reasons. In an app like Gmail and Google Docs, you might store most of your business data in the cloud and hope that it's safe and secure. On Facebook, you might manage your own company page, but some of your marketing materials, advertising and other collateral are all saved within the Facebook ecosystem.
For years, businesses have been able to download all this data. In Facebook, for example, you can go to Settings and click an option to download all of your data. Google offers a tool called Takeout that allows you to download your data as well.
These tools are handy and helpful in terms of managing data, but they are also inherently risky. Downloading these data archives could expose the files to hackers.
That's why Big Tech companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook have joined together to create the Data Service Project (or DTP), which is an application framework designed to make it easier for individuals and companies to transfer their data from one service to another. The project uses open source code, and it's intended as a secure and easy way to help you transfer data between online services without the risk of downloading the data.
Google is working on their part of the project by offering all of the documentation, code, plugins, and APIs (application program interface) necessary to do the transfers. Another Data Transfer Project provides most of the background information like white papers and technical documents. Microsoft offers a blog with detailed information about the project.
Goals of DTP
The main goal of the project is to be as agnostic as possible about which service you use and to make it easier for users and companies to transfer data. For now, it's still in the development stage, but the project intends to use strong encryption for the transfers and make them interoperable between the major services (like Gmail and Facebook).
As David Stark, the vice president for corporate standards at Microsoft, wrote at the DTP blog: "Data portability between services is an important, simple concept and a deeply complex technology challenge. We encourage others in the industry to join us in advancing a broader view of the data portability ecosystem. This project launch is a starting point for that effort, and we look forward to working with our current and future partners."
DTP aims to ensure interoperability and portability for users. The project relies on protocols to ensure smooth data transfers, without requiring any extra steps to export or import the data. Further, companies can participate with their own protocols and application frameworks. Some firms might manage their own online service using a proprietary database or even a social network app that was built in-house. The DTP site claims one objective is to allow companies to use the transfer protocols for their own purposes and not just to exchange data between the major players, such as Google and Microsoft.
A word of warning, though. A Google spokesperson mentioned that the Data Transfer project, announced this past summer, is still in an early stage. There are a few test applications you can try out, listed at the DTP site, but they are for experienced developers.
For now, it's worth tracking DTP from a small business standpoint, aware that these projects are underway and that there will be new options for transferring your company data. It's still a good idea to use all the security functions available, such as two-factor authentication. If you download your data, make sure you store the archive in a secure and encrypted location.