In the data-driven digital era where money follows data, it has never been more vital to understand what data you have, where it is stored and who has access to it – and that’s before you start to work out what to do with it.
For me, these are not just words. To make this a reality for our customers, I’ve just taken on a new role as Chief Data Officer for Fujitsu’s Product business in Europe. My job is to focus on helping companies get their arms around data, as the foundations of their digital transformation.
One of the fundamentals of doing more with your data is making sure you don’t lose or mislay it. Compare it to a pair of reading glasses. If you’re anything like me, you’ll “mislay” your glasses at least once a day – because you took them off and put them somewhere. That location may have made perfect sense at that very moment. But since you immediately forgot about where this way, it means finding the glasses later can often be frustrating.
Now if that pair of glasses was a chunk of data, then it’s not going to be too hard to find where you put it – but how about if you are continuously getting new sets of data. Where would you put these? And would you be able to find them again afterwards?
We’re creating more data than ever, and doing this every day
The importance of data protection has soared as the amount of data created and stored is continuing to grow at unprecedented rates. Today, data protection is way more than just backup. The tools originally used for backup evolved into data management, including discover and analyze functionality, and took on the role of creating information repositories able to search and especially find information when you need it – such as for business analytics or deep learning to support AI.
What’s more, with more than 200 billion Internet of Things devices projected to be connected to the internet by 2030, the vast amounts of data that will be generated by these devices will put IT departments under even more immense pressure to protect the resulting data outputs and prevent outages and downtime. But without a stringent data protection and management strategy, that just isn't possible.
According to security analyst firm ESG, data protection is undergoing a fundamental shift, from traditional backup and recovery methods to the emergence of more autonomous AI-based solutions. ESG warns of a chasm between traditional data backup, in which data is only moved around but not leveraged to drive or support business outcomes, and data management, in which data is better understood and reused for other technical or business purposes.
Given that data insights and analytics can be monetized, enterprises today need to explore newer data management and protection trends and solutions, to leverage data insights and analytics for innovation, differentiation and market leadership.
But where should data protection professionals start?
When you're choosing a data protection strategy there are a few things that you need to consider.
First, data protection is more than just traditional backup. It also includes snapshots, replication, business continuity, disaster protection and different kinds of archiving. But even if we just pare it down to backup, there's still a lot of choices that need to be considered. You have to think about on-premises solutions cloud centric solutions or hybrid architectures.
A more resource-efficient approach should be based on the classification of data protection requirements. For data protection professionals, this means asking yourselves a few challenging questions: What data do you have and where does it live? How old and how sensitive is it? Why should you keep it? And would you be able to retrieve it when you need it?
Before discussing technologies and products, data protection decision makers should define SLAs according to organizational business needs. Two aspects are important to think about when considering SLAs: The recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO). The RPO defines how much data you as an enterprise are prepared to lose. In order to restore data, there has to be a backup copy available to recover data in the unlikely event of data corruption. The RTO, however, defines how long it should take until your business is back up and running. This is the time from the impact of the system until the enterprise application is operational.
However, the traditional backup approach alone is not suited for today’s dynamic operations, nor is it cost-effective either. This leaves organizations with the challenge to come up with a mix of technologies to maintain business continuity.
While this sounds complex, partnering with the right solutions provider should offer you the option of deploying a data protection appliance to ensure time and budget efficiencies. Data protection appliances execute data handling tasks directly on the storage level to execute replication, deduplication and tape management. This helps in reducing the workload on the backup software, servers and networks, and significantly decreases management effort.
But not all data is business critical. Classifying your data by relevance would enable you to respond to your business requirements and to keep data management costs down. To know what types of data you have, you need to deploy search and discovery tools.
And to optimize your costs, your data protection should be commensurate with your SLAs. In distributed environments such as edge, core and cloud, centralized management of data can help you keep costs down as well as enable you to automate data management processes.
When it comes to archiving, some organizations think of it as requirement for compliance reasons. But archiving can do much more. This is because archiving can both contribute to cost savings, as well as provide additional business value. Archiving preserves data as a value add, because the archived information gives you an opportunity to apply deep learning tools to excavate trends, insights and analytics that your enterprise can monetize.
What if your enterprise data is distributed across edge, core and cloud?
Today, customers typically contract more than one cloud vendor at any given time, and this presents data security and encryption challenges, especially when data is moved between clouds. In principle, regardless of what encryption mechanisms the cloud vendor provides, you should opt for a cloud-agnostic encryption mechanism to encrypt your data centrally. This will enable you to safely move your workloads from edge to core to cloud, as well as to ensure you maintain regulatory compliance, especially if you operate within a highly regulated industry.
To optimize your data protection environment according to your business needs, as an IT decision maker, you should opt for a partner able to provides the flexibility of choice between a varied but complementary portfolio of appliances, tape solutions and data protection software.
Your data protection solutions should enable your storage professionals to consolidate the backup and archive infrastructure used – optimized for the needs of individual data centers. This would contribute to significant savings in operational expenses (opex), and help underpin IT service level agreements. Data protection is best thought of as a continuum of complementary activities that provide not only protection, but also preservation and availability of IT services to a business.
Given the continuing adoption of virtualization and private cloud architectures, expanding growth in unstructured data, increased compliance regulations and aggressive SLAs, data protection will remain one of the biggest challenges for data protection professionals in the foreseeable future.
In addition to fundamental data protection considerations, there are a number of emerging challenges affecting the management of the heavily distributed data landscapes, including personal data privacy and GDPR.
Strengthen data protection with a trusted ecosystem
When it comes to protecting organizational data, you need to partner with a trusted advisor and ecosystem to ensure that you receive independent advice on the right digital strategy for your business.
With more than 50 years of experience in the field, Fujitsu is favorably positioned to help you develop solutions that are perfectly tailored to meet your specific data protection requirements. Our strategic alliances and collaborative development projects with leading manufacturers ensure that you will be able to deploy only the very best solutions to boost your business success, protect your enterprise business assets and convert data to business value.
Now I’ve outlined some fundamentals with regard to a robust data protection strategy, I’m off to look for my glasses. I must have put them somewhere …