Around the Storage Block

Re-examine your data backup solutions on World Backup Day

Let World Backup Day trigger the re-examination of your data backup solutions and practices. Perhaps now is the time to make the move to a new secondary storage strategy, one that realizes the potential of intelligent data protection.

WorldBUDay - 190318 - BlogSize - PrepareNOW - v1.pngDid you know that March 31 is World Backup Day? This global event provides a great pretext for serious thinking about how you approach your own data backup.

You're doing it, of course! That's not the issue. What may deserve attention, however, is how—and how well—your organization is protecting its data. As threats to data proliferate, now is the time to assess your data backup solutions and overall backup strategy.

Intensifying pressure on IT to protect data

IT managers are feeling intensifying pressure to protect data. In fact, it's about more than just backup and recovery. Data protection spans business continuity, disaster recovery, security, and compliance. Forrester Research spoke to the impact of these forces, saying, "As 100-year floods and cyber attacks grow more frequent, and as organizations become completely dependent on complex technology, business continuity (BC) preparedness must be a cornerstone of a resilient organization." Forrester describes a resilient firm as one that "can absorb the impact of any unexpected event without failing to deliver on its brand promise."

Adding to this mandate, a host of factors make data protection more challenging and complex. These include:

  • Dealing with more data formats. In addition to backing up databases and file repositories, your data backup solutions are probably now tasked with protecting unstructured data like video files, email archives, binary large objects (BLOBs), and so forth.
  • Ingesting data from more sources. Today, your organization's data is residing on-premises as well as in public and private clouds. There are also greater number of access points, with databases mapping to data lakes in addition to the usual applications.
  • Keeping data safe for longer periods. Your company's old data may be the source of valuable insights. As a result, you have to ensure its availability for far longer than might have been expected in an earlier era.

As Gartner summarized, "Data center backup solution evaluation is complex because of the blend of modern and legacy systems, including backup repositories on-premises or in the cloud." On top of these factors, you're also probably confronting new, higher expectations for data availability and integrity. You can't take applications offline for backups like you used to. Data intensive applications and round-the-clock digital businesses need constant data access. Certainly, losing data is a big problem in this environment.

Compliance and security are also reshaping the landscape of data backup solutions. Laws likes Sarbanes-Oxley require long-term retention of email archives, with serious penalties for data loss. New privacy regulations such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) make it imperative that any data containing personal information be easily accessed, available, and monitored. Again, serious consequences await companies that are negligent in compliance.

Finally, security threats (ransomware, worms, etc.) put a premium on having clean copies of data available in the event of an attack. With ransomware, for example, the attacker locks up business data and extorts a ransom in exchange for making it available for use again. You can mitigate this threat by having replicated data backed up in a safe, separate location.

Balancing data protection with efficiency and economy

You will always be asked by the business to keep backup and recovery costs down (and keep the process as fast as possible) regardless of how complex things get. The best practice is to balance data protection with efficiency and economy. This is a matter of devising an optimal secondary storage strategy.

Secondary storage is where your backup and recovery happens. Primary storage, in contrast, is the place for data used in production. With secondary storage, the challenge is to follow through on all the demands of backup and recovery without overspending on unnecessary resources or creating big administrative burdens.

Secondary storage may take the form of on-premises hard disk drives (HDDs), cloud storage, or tape. In many cases, you'll want to use all three depending on the backup workloads and your company's needs. What counts is building a capability that protects data as inexpensively as possible while enabling streamlined admin.

The best data backup solutions today tend to be highly automated. They feature self-management, so you can protect your data without needing too many IT resources. They're secure, providing protection from modern security threats. Secondary storage for backup and recovery needs to be flexible, too, with different options available for each workload. Deployment choices also help, with the ability to support hybrid cloud environments becoming a "must have."

Moving to intelligent data protection with your data backup solutions

Your backup and restore solutions will work best if you can put them to work in service of intelligent data protection. You can think of intelligent data protection as a set of practices that eliminates the complexity of protecting your data. It takes your secondary storage strategy and allows it to realize its potential.

Typical elements of a solution for intelligent data protection include a simple user interface, which keeps administration efficient and reduces errors. Automatic movement of data to the optimal environment is also key to success with intelligent data protection. For instance, your solution might shift data from the cloud to tape based on shifting circumstances. This may involve what's known as "policy-driven data migration." You keep control but don't have to intervene manually. An intelligent data protection solution will also align costs with usage, such as may be possible with pay-as-you-go pricing models.

This World Backup Day, take the time to examine your data backup and restore practices. The day provides an opportunity for self-assessment and planning. It may be time to move to a new secondary storage strategy, one that realizes the potential of intelligent data protection.

Hugh Taylor.jpgMeet Around the Storage Block blogger Hugh Taylor, president of Taylor Communications, LLC. Hugh has created marketing content for such clients as Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle, Google, and Advanced Micro Devices. While at the IBM Software Group, he developed a unique financial payback model to quantify ROI for social software in the corporate environment, for which he received the Marcom Platinum Award for Whitepaper Writing. As the PR manager for Microsoft's SharePoint Technologies, Hugh was also responsible for generating the "Billion-Dollar Juggernaut" story that helped make SharePoint a high-profile product for the company, generating over 800 pieces of press coverage in one year. Hugh is a certified information security manager (CISM) and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley's Law School and Graduate School of Information and has authored four books as well as more than a dozen articles on business and technology.

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