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The Importance of Data Consolidation for Rapid CPRA Response



The California Public Records Act (CPRA), enacted in 1968, is a crucial piece of legislation granting the public the right to access records from state and local agencies. This law plays a significant role in promoting transparency and accountability in government. It's important to note that the CPRA is closely related to the federal government’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which also aims to provide public access to government records. 

Data consolidation for CPRA

The CPRA raises several responsibilities that state and local agencies must meet to stay compliant, including the types of agency data included in the law.  The CPRA applies to a wide range of records maintained by state and local agencies. Some of the common types of agency data that are subject to CPRA requests include:

  • Administrative records – including emails and meeting minutes, notes, and recordings

  • Financial records

  • Personnel records

  • Public safety records

  • Planning and development records

  • Public works and infrastructure records

  • Health and social services records

  • Educational records

  • Legal and legislative records

  • GIS and mapping data


This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. It's important to note that while these records are generally subject to CPRA requests, there are certain exemptions and limitations. These may include documents related to ongoing investigations, personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, and other protected categories. Agencies must carefully understand each request and review each record for relevant exemptions before disclosing records.


Complying with CPRA requests promptly and efficiently is not just a legal obligation; it's a crucial step in maintaining public trust. However, many agencies struggle with data storage and management complexity, mainly when data is scattered across various systems, departments, and individual workstations. This can lead to delays and inefficiencies in the CPRA response process, impacting employee productivity and potentially leading to litigation and eDiscovery. 


Data consolidation is a powerful solution to streamline this process, enabling agencies to quickly locate, assess, and provide requested records in the allotted time. 


Data consolidation benefits for CPRA

Improved Data Accessibility: Data consolidation involves combining data from disparate sources into a centralized repository, making it easier for agencies to access and manage information. By breaking down data silos and integrating data from various departments and systems, agencies can establish a single source of truth. This centralized approach allows authorized personnel to quickly locate and retrieve relevant records when receiving a CPRA request. Instead of searching through multiple data silos, databases, and manually searching each employee’s local devices, CPRA staff can access the needed data from a single, unified platform. Improved data accessibility significantly reduces the time and effort required to respond to CPRA requests, enabling agencies to meet statutory deadlines more efficiently. One caveat for efficient data consolidation is to adopt policies that address where all agency data can and cannot be stored.


Enhanced Data Quality and Consistency: When data is scattered across different systems, inconsistencies, and errors in search can arise due to a lack of documented procedures, storage standardization, and data duplication. Data consolidation helps overcome these issues by enforcing consistent data formats, definitions, data handling policies, and taxonomies across the organization. By establishing data governance policies and procedures, agencies can ensure that data is accurate, complete, and up-to-date and is stored in a centralized location. This is particularly important in the context of CPRA requests, as providing inaccurate or incomplete information can lead to legal/eDiscovery challenges and damage public trust. With consolidated data storage, agencies can have confidence in the quality and reliability of the records they disclose, reducing the risk of errors, inconsistencies, and non-compliance.


Streamlined Search and Retrieval Data Consolidation: Advanced search and retrieval technologies can greatly simplify locating relevant records in response to a CPRA request. By leveraging tools such as full-text search, metadata tagging, and GenAI, agencies can quickly identify and extract the specific information requested in the CPRA request. The GenAI can also be trained to recognize data that does not meet the CPRA inclusions and quarantine them from production. 


Instead of manually sifting through numerous documents and emails, staff can use powerful search and GenAI capabilities to pinpoint relevant records based on keywords, dates, authors, or other criteria. This saves time and ensures a more comprehensive and accurate response to CPRA requests. Moreover, data consolidation allows for the implementation of access controls and security measures, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access sensitive information and redact exempt data before disclosure.


Improved Collaboration and Communication: Responding to CPRA requests often involves collaboration among multiple departments and individuals within an agency. Data consolidation facilitates seamless communication and information sharing, enabling staff to work together more effectively. With a centralized data repository, different teams can access and contribute to the same set of records, eliminating the need for manual data transfers or email exchanges. This collaborative approach streamlines the CPRA response process, as staff can easily coordinate their efforts, share relevant findings, and ensure a consistent and comprehensive response. Additionally, data consolidation allows for the implementation of workflow management tools, enabling agencies to track the progress of CPRA requests, assign tasks, and monitor deadlines, further enhancing collaboration, accountability, and legal defensibility.


Cost and Resource Optimization Data consolidation: This offers significant cost and resource optimization benefits for agencies dealing with CPRA requests. By reducing the time and effort required to locate and retrieve relevant records, agencies can allocate their limited resources more efficiently. Staff can focus on their core responsibilities instead of spending excessive time searching for information across multiple systems. Moreover, data consolidation eliminates the need for redundant data storage, backups, and maintenance of duplicate data - leading to cost savings regarding storage infrastructure, disaster recovery, and IT resources. Agencies can also leverage cloud-based solutions and existing on-prem storage for data consolidation (Hybrid cloud), allowing scalability and flexibility while minimizing upfront hardware and software investments. By optimizing costs and resources, agencies can better serve the public and meet their CPRA obligations without straining budgets.


Proactive Disclosure and Transparency Data consolidation: This facilitates efficient CPRA response and enables agencies to proactively disclose frequently requested records. Using Gen AI to identify patterns and trends in CPRA requests continuously, agencies can determine which records are of high public interest and make them readily available on their websites or through open data portals. This proactive approach reduces the number of individual CPRA requests, saving time and resources for both the agency and the public. Moreover, proactive disclosure demonstrates an agency's commitment to transparency and openness, building public trust and confidence. Data consolidation provides the foundation for effective proactive disclosure by making identifying, organizing, and publishing relevant records easier.


Compliance and Risk Mitigation: Failure to quickly comply with CPRA requirements can result in litigation, expensive eDiscovery, fines, and reputational damage for agencies. Data consolidation helps mitigate these risks by ensuring agencies have a comprehensive and organized approach to managing their records. By consolidating data and documenting clear policies and procedures for CPRA response, agencies can demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability. This includes implementing data retention and disposal schedules - ensuring that records are appropriately preserved and deleted by legal requirements. Data consolidation also facilitates the identification and protection of exempt information, such as PII data or confidential business information, reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosure.


Scalability and Future-Proofing: As the volume and complexity of agency data continue to grow, agencies must be prepared to handle increasing CPRA requests. Data consolidation provides a scalable and future-proof solution for managing this growth. By establishing a centralized data repository and implementing flexible data management practices, agencies can accommodate expanding data volumes and evolving CPRA requirements. 

Data consolidation also allows for integrating new data sources and technologies, ensuring that agencies adapt to changing needs and expectations. By investing in data consolidation, agencies can future-proof their CPRA response capabilities and remain responsive to public demands for transparency and accountability.


Data consolidation offers many compelling benefits for California state and local agencies seeking to streamline their CPRA response processes. By breaking down data silos, improving data accessibility, enhancing data quality, and enabling next-gen search and retrieval, agencies can respond to CPRA requests more quickly and effectively. 

Data consolidation fosters employee collaboration, optimizes costs and resources, enables proactive disclosure, and mitigates compliance risks. As the demand for government transparency continues to grow, agencies that embrace data consolidation will be well-positioned to meet their CPRA obligations and maintain public trust. By investing in robust data consolidation strategies and technologies, California state and local agencies can transform their CPRA response capabilities, promoting accountability, transparency, and better service to the public.


How restorVault can help State and Local Agencies

RestorVault is the leader in enterprise/cloud data virtualization solutions. We have been awarded three US patents for our on-prem/cloud virtualization technology. Our data virtualization solutions offer multiple benefits to organizations, including:


  1. Hybrid virtualization capability across both on-prem and cloud platforms

  2. Enhanced storage utilization and simplified data management capabilities

  3. Improved data availability and resilience

  4. Simplified scalability and flexibility

  5. Cost efficiency and investment protection

  6. Data protection against disasters and ransomware attacks (data encryption and immutable storage tiers)

  7. The ability to duplicate, move, and share large, unstructured data sets without the need for time-consuming and risky large-scale data migrations


The restorVault hybrid cloud storage archiving and data virtualization platform were explicitly designed to meet the California Trusted System requirements that all California state and local agencies should adopt. 


The restorVault solution addresses the following criteria: 

The first requirement for California Trusted System certification is an agency should be able to maintain at least two separate copies of an electronic resource/data file. Each file (and its individual hashed fingerprint) is stored in two separate vaults on the restorVault cloud infrastructure, and each file copy is stored in a completely different data center for redundancy.


The second requirement is that the agency utilizes proper hardware/software and media storage techniques to prevent unauthorized data additions, modifications, or deletions – maintaining the original “copy of record.” The restorVault solution stores all data in the restorVault cloud, which is encrypted AND stored on immutable/WORM storage tiers to ensure copy of record status. In reality, encrypting sensitive data in the restorVault cloud ensures sensitive data cannot be stolen and used for criminal purposes. Additionally, immutable storage ensures that the newer forms of ransomware cannot corrupt or delete your data – which would force your agency into either paying the ransom or suffering catastrophic data and system loss.


Third, agencies must store at least one copy of each document/file in a separate and secure location, with at least one copy in an unalterable format, i.e., immutable or WORM storage. As stated above, the restorVault platforms enable the storage of each data file in two separate data center locations in an encrypted state.


And lastly, the system must withstand independent audits to ensure document integrity. restorVault has a proven track record of providing our platform to many California state and city agencies with ongoing audits and compliance.


Additional restorVault data integrity capabilities for the CPRA:

  • Digital fingerprinting – Each time a file is saved, a unique fingerprint is generated using an MD5 or SHA1 hash of its contents and metadata, so history and file contents cannot be altered and passed off as the original file after the fact.

  • Serial Numbers – Each file is assigned a serial number to ensure no files are missing or have been tampered with.

  • Secure Time – The system time clock is secured using a global, redundant, authenticated time source (Stratum Level I hardware time sources).

  • Data Encryption – 256 AES data encryption is provided in transit and at rest.

  • Data Verification – All stored files are re-verified every 90 days against their fingerprints, repaired using the second copy if necessary, and retained per customer-defined policies.


RestorVault’s cloud storage virtualization platform is compatible with a hybrid cloud strategy. Data from on-premises resources such as file and SharePoint servers can be automatically transferred to the RestorVault cloud. At the same time, placeholders are left in the original on-prem application servers. The on-prem servers can then use their CPU capacity to work with virtualized data in the cloud. This approach leverages the benefits of a hybrid cloud strategy, including cost-effective cloud storage and the use of existing on-premises CPU resources.

 

restorVault customers can automatically move data between on-prem storage, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and other cloud platforms without fear of vendor/platform lock-in. Additionally, the on-prem application servers can now seamlessly use cloud-based data.

 

Contact us today to learn which California state and local agencies have already adopted the restorVault data storage platform.


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