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Shadow Databases Home | Where do they come from? | Resolution | Being Vigilant
Shadow DatabasesBeing Vigilant

You often don't know about shadow databases until they come up in a conversion, but there are some strategies you can put in place to help detect the unauthorized use of institutional data.

Dummy Records

When you prepare data downloads for end users, you should have a set of dummy donor records and include at least one in the download.

This will help you to get a copy of whatever is being mailed to your database for both the current mailing and possibly anything in the future. Another way to test if external mailings are being done is to include information for these dummy donors in data extractions with a real phone number for example, and different name spellings so that you can tell exactly which mailing list they may have come from.

Know From Whence Come Your Lists

Whenever you see a list or report which was not produced centrally, try and determine if it came from the central database. If not, try and find out from the user how they prepared it.

This has the dual benefit of also helping you evaluate your current set of reports if users are taking a lot of existing reports and reformatting them.

Monitor Statistics

Keep close track of your addressable rate and also analyze this by division or department. Also keep track of the number of records changed by department.

This helps to point out any anomalies in address corrections such as a department that does not appear to be doing any, and also helps you to focus on improving your data quality.

Quoting Chapter and Verse

Be prepared to quote institutional policy on shadow databases when you need to, but before taking this step, make sure you have allies in the process and that they clearly understand the need to integrate the data and business processes.

In the final analysis, the elimination of shadow databases will have a lot to do with cooperation and co-opting of users.
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