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What Does a Data Custodian Do?

D. Nelson
D. Nelson

One of the most common duties of a data custodian is to make sure that all data belonging to an organization is defined and organized in a logical manner. Professionals in this field are often responsible for granting access to sensitive data and authorizing data access requests. In some cases, a data custodian might be responsible for assessing the accuracy and relevance of stored data. When executives of an organization plan systemic changes, data custodians are often consulted and expected to participate in implementing new Information Technology (IT) systems. These professionals might also be responsible for with communicating other members of an organization regarding all data access issues and providing basic troubleshooting duties.

A data custodian is an IT professional responsible for making decisions regarding how an organization's digital data is stored, organized, and accessed. In most cases, this professional is a branch, department, or team leader. Data custodians in larger organizations might require the assistance of data stewarda, to whom a data a custodian could delegate tasks and grant privileges when he or she is unable to perform these duties alone.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One primary function of a data custodian is to determine the sensitivity of data. For example, in an academic context, this professional might define all records regarding students' personal information as extremely sensitive. Individuals who would like to access this information might need to contact a custodian in order to get access to this information. Data regarding course requirements, on the other hand, might be defined as public since it is not sensitive and might benefit parties who do not have privileged access.

In business contexts, data custodians are normally required to understand how data relate to an organization's operations. They are often expected to develop and revise guidelines that dictate how data should be acquired and where it should be stored. When professionals have questions regarding why data is important or relevant or why it is defined in a certain way, a data custodian might be responsible for providing answers.

It is also common for data custodians to work closely with executives to implement large operational changes. For example, when an organization is undergoing large changes that are supposed to improve efficiency, a data custodian might be responsible for overseeing implementation of new IT systems. In many cases, data custodians meet with other IT leaders, such as application custodians, to design new IT architecture and create training guides for employees.

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