Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?

  • Data protection is a costly and complex but essential insurance measure
  • Here’s how you can reduce cost and optimise processes associated with data protection

Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?DATA protection is a necessary burden for businesses. But investment in applications, mass storage, backup processes and the training required to keep information safe is taking its toll on IT teams, who have little time to sift data and assess what really needs to be backed up and how.
Therefore the default for many companies is simply to back up everything.
As data sources continue to grow, customers are asking how to turn data protection from a run-the-business to a change-the-business process, and if this essential operation can be made more efficient and cost-effective.
Information is a company’s most important asset, and for many of today’s organisations, data protection is a costly and complex but essential insurance measure, offering a guard against loss that could damage brand reputation or invite lawsuits.
For every US$1 a company spends to keep customer information, it spends at least US$4-6 to protect it.
And advances in technology over the last five years have produced a number of ‘must-have’ enterprise solutions – server virtualisation, the Internet of Things, data analytics and software-defined data centres – each one bringing with it a new set of backup requirements and challenges.
As a result, most companies have at least three backup solutions in place to manage their data protection needs.
With IT budgets remaining the same at best, while data handling and analysis continue to skyrocket, it is unsurprising that many organisations want to reduce cost and optimise processes associated with data protection.

Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?

Where should they start? Here are four important considerations:
1) Make protection add value
The cost of protection should be aligned with the business value of the information, by clearly differentiating between critical, important and standard data.
Why do you protect data in the first place?

  • For operational recovery – limited disaster such as data corruption;
  • For disaster recovery – large scale disaster such as flood or fire; and
  • For long-term recovery – to meet compliance requirements

Alignment starts by understanding the different types of recovery and levels of data importance, as shown in the diagram:

Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?

For example, core banking systems which are critical to a bank’s operation should use hardware-based snapshots for operational recovery.
While this costs more, it is essential to allow recovery within minutes to keep the business going.  This will also minimise data loss and impact on users. This fits in the top left-hand corner of the diagram.
At the other end of the spectrum, things such as healthcare patient data – which have to be kept for the length of a patient’s lifetime or longer, but which are not regularly accessed – can be moved to the right-hand side; either in a private or public cloud as regulations dictate, to reduce costs.
By taking time to assess where data sits on the diagram, businesses can start to structure a cost-effective approach to data protection.
2) Fully leverage the cloud
Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?The business case for cloud backup data storage can be compelling and there is a lot of pressure on IT departments to adopt it.
But while the cloud may be the fastest way to reduce cost, it can also be the fastest way to introduce risk. Issues around security, flexibility and real costs are common concerns when it comes to the cloud.
Security concerns can be allayed with encryption and by ensuring companies ultimately ‘hold the key’ to their data.
Understanding how much the cloud will cost – based on expected usage patterns – requires planning, but ensures businesses aren’t caught out by additional charges or system limitations.
Ensuring flexibility is slightly harder. Cloud providers come and go rapidly, and IT is constantly under pressure to adopt new systems.
However, regular data migration can be complex and risky. It is critical that companies have a ‘concierge to the cloud’ – a solution that helps move data easily and without headaches between clouds, as they take advantage of the latest innovations.
3) Transform and consolidate
In the past, organisations were forced to take a ‘best-of-breed’ approach to better support new business requirements. This resulted in a lot of complexity and multiple solutions, and spiralling maintenance and training costs.
As solutions catch up with trends, it is becoming easier to adopt a single solution approach that enables businesses to support multiple applications in one place.
4) Build your own, or buy purpose-built solutions?
Businesses today are expected to be agile enough to respond to ever-changing customer demands. As a result, IT is no longer seen as just a provider but more of a partner to the business, and is expected to consult on best-practices and oversee transformation.
While it some may be tempted to build a custom data protection solution for complete control, this comes with a costly set of storage solutions and applications, as well as a team to run them.
By opting instead for purpose-built integrated solutions, IT can free up time that was previously used to maintain, upgrade and troubleshoot custom-built systems, focus more on high value tasks, and explore new value-added capabilities for the business while ensuring predictability in both cost and maintenance.
Our customer experiences demonstrate the impact this can have. A leading global beverage company reduced data protection requirements by 70% despite an annual data growth of 30%. And a multinational retailer reduced backup time by 50%, and is now able to replicate its data on a nightly basis.
Singular solution

Data protection: Necessary evil or competitive edge?

Data will continue to take up a large part of IT processes, so now is the time to examine how to reduce costs and make processes more efficient.
Instead of a single backup approach to data protection with a ‘keep everything’ mindset, businesses now have far more flexibility to make savings, gain insight, and ultimately get value from the data they are required to keep.
A single solution that can pull all this together, is invaluable in the fight to get value from data protection.
Christopher Pestano is technical director, Data Resilience Solution, at Hitachi Data Systems.

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