PASS adopts new Redgate data cataloging solution to stay ahead of data privacy concerns


PASS, the global community of data professionals, has become one of the first major users of a new solution from Redgate that automatically discovers and classifies sensitive data in SQL Server. The adoption of SQL Data Catalog will give the organisation a clear picture of data across its entire estate, enable the automatic masking of development and test data, and help streamline compliance work.

The message from analysts such as Gartner and Forrester is that interest in data catalogs is growing. The requirement to build an inventory and pinpoint the location of personally identifiable information (PII) is vital as the volume and scope of data being collected by businesses grows – and increasingly stringent regulations are introduced to protect it.


Like many organisations, PASS has a huge database which is constantly being updated and accessed from all around the world through its website. Protecting the personal data of its 300,000 members in the database is an important duty for the IT team. They need to follow the data protection legislation of many different countries and regions, be able to demonstrate compliance with that legislation and, importantly, provide a model for the PASS community that they can emulate.


PASS had already taken a major step towards meeting those obligations when it introduced Compliant Database DevOps to its development process using Redgate tools and solutions. This included the automated provisioning of masked copies of the production database to development and testing, to enforce the protection of personal data. But PASS still needed to find a better way to discover and classify data, in order to identify what data should be masked.


Redgate had already spotted the need for a solution geared towards SQL Server teams, that provided enterprise-grade capabilities, but which was better aligned to DBAs’ requirements. Drawing on the software company’s 20-year heritage as the market leader in SQL Server database tooling, a development team partnered with DBAs and compliance teams to identify the real problems organizations face when classifying and cataloging SQL Server data, and used these insights to drive the development of SQL Data Catalog.


As Richard Macaskill, Redgate Product Manager, comments: “This was the tightest co-creation with customers we’ve seen at Redgate, lasting for over a year. We maintained daily contact with customers via a dedicated Slack channel and held weekly calls over GoToMeeting. I knew it was working when many of them told us we’d ‘nailed it’, in terms of delivering a tool that solved their data classification problems.”


What really interested the IT team at PASS was the way SQL Data Catalog provides a reliable and evergreen record of where sensitive data is located and its precise classification, including in databases managed by third-party applications – something that previously blocked the team from using the data catalog features in SQL Server Management Studio.


The implementation of SQL Data Catalog has delivered some major advantages for the IT team at PASS.


Discovering and classifying data has moved from a difficult and uncertain exercise to one that is clear and simple. As instances are added to SQL Data Catalog, it immediately scans for columns that are likely to contain sensitive information and builds up a picture of the data estate. A history of changes is automatically generated, providing an audit trail of where classification labels were applied, when, and by who. And an API enables classification metadata to be integrated with compliance tools, and reporting solutions such as PowerBI, Tableau, and SSRS, to automatically demonstrate compliance.


Crucially for PASS, data supplied to development and test environments can be checked against the information contained in SQL Data Catalog to verify that it’s been masked correctly. This gives them complete confidence that they are compliant with any data protection legislation anywhere and has freed the team to continue to improve the speed at which they are able to develop, test and release updates.


Any organization or company which is looking into how to discover, classify and catalog data can download a 28-day, fully functional free trial of SQL Data Catalog from the Redgate website.

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Red Gate makes ingeniously simple software used by 650,000 IT professionals who work with SQL Server, Azure, .NET, and Oracle. More than 100,000 companies use our products, including 93% of the Fortune 100. Our philosophy is to design highly usable, reliable tools which elegantly solve the problems that developers and database administrators face every day.

Redgate Software Ltd