Once upon a time, data protection simply involved setting up backups and archiving data. Today, it encompasses a much broader collection of requirements – from compliance with regulations such as the EU’s GDPR to mitigating growing security threats such as ransomware.
Unfortunately, many businesses are failing to keep up with these emerging challenges, simply because their traditional approaches such as manual processes, scripts and ad-hoc piecemeal automation are not up to the task of addressing new concerns. Most organizations whose data protection infrastructure has been built up bit by bit over time are highly likely to have accumulated a selection of tools to handle different functions, using a plethora of supporting management systems.
For any data management and protection set-up, if it has been a while since you last evaluated it, then changes will likely be needed. Most organizations tend to develop silos of data in different places, while many documents are saved multiple times, from different sources. Also, a considerable amount of historical data is probably taking up much-needed space on premium storage devices. As for disaster recovery, patchwork scenarios make it impossible to be 100 percent confident that all critical data can be restored in case of a catastrophe.
This complexity and duplication of effort in managing data protection is hard to escape, especially when requirements have been handled on a case-by-case basis. However, the tough reality is that data protection tools and processes are no longer up to the task of meeting any organization’s evolving needs.
Clearly, this means it is time for a new approach. So, what would the perfect solution look like? For a start, it would enable everything – from files to virtual environments – to be managed from a central point, via a simple point-and-click interface. It would create and maintain comprehensive metadata to easily locate files and objects and to check compliance with regulations.
This ideal system would also know how to assure backup integrity, for example, to quiesce databases in advance. It would compress data to save space, and would only back up the same data once. Naturally, it would be highly secure. To avoid affecting live systems, it would probably run on a dedicated server and storage system.
Could the answer be to explore appliance-based options?
We know what you are thinking – you’ve seen this sort of solution from software providers, but may have considered the integration effort too onerous, requiring too much specialist knowledge on topics ranging from compliance to virus resistance. However, software isn’t the only option. There are data protection (backup and archive) appliances available whose components are designed to work together seamlessly. These are typically integrated appliances (self-contained, optimized devices) or target appliances (storage platforms that support existing backup and archiving software, which come into their own when you have more than one backup software suite).
When selecting either an integrated or target appliance, the first step is to review your requirements and existing landscape with future growth needs in mind, as well as options that must be included: for example, the mix of disks, inclusion of tape drives, etc. Look for solutions designed so you pay only for the capability you initially need, with optional expansion. Select a product that provides room for growth without paying a premium for expansion capacity that you may never exploit. Bear in mind that while most solutions are designed to easily expand capacity, there are far fewer options for increasing functionality, particularly for integrated appliances. Note that if the appliance doesn’t already include self-management capabilities such as data auto-migration between storage tiers, it is unlikely this can be added later.
Target appliances are also ideal to strengthen and enhance existing software environments. Moving from a storage layer made up of generic disk and/or tape technology to a modern, integrated all-disk or disk/flash hybrid platform can simplify management and means more data can be kept online, to speed access and recovery.
The hard truth is that relying on old, fragmented and often manual solutions to protect and manage data is not a sustainable approach. Whether or not you go down the appliance route, the goal is to move to a firmer technical foundation. Doing this well reduces risks immediately, saves money longer term, and means you can generally sleep more soundly.
Find out more about the issue in our Inside Track research note about “All-in-one Data Protection”, written in conjunction with independent research firm Freeform Dynamics.