I’ve been working in the field of data protection in Luxembourg for almost 20 years in a variety of sales, pre-sales, technical and management roles. The data protection solutions I have been able to offer have evolved over time – but one thing has remained constant: The driving force behind every customer interaction is their pain points.
Ultimately every IT manager’s goal is for things not to go wrong – but we all know that not only do problems occur, they generally happen outside of office hours. Consequently, a considerable number of my interactions with customers are driven by the desire to avoid the dreaded weekend call out…
However, the triggers for them to reach out to me have changed over time. Five years ago, we saw a major move to simplifying and automating data protection, because the trend towards virtualization meant that legacy systems were unable to effectively protect many businesses’ data.
Two to three years ago, the Europe-wide push for GDPR compliance, not to mention the hefty fines for non-compliance, brought about a major review of data handling processes.
Currently, one of the hottest topics for customers is data protection for hybrid IT environments. I expect these will increase as customers push increased workloads into the cloud. Even financial institutions with the most rigorous regulations relating to their data are increasingly running systems such as their HR management software, in the cloud.
In particular, those customers who take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of the cloud for their development environments are starting to appreciate the impact of potentially losing their data – if you have ten developers working on a project, and you lose your development data – you’ve just thrown away tens of days of work.
Ransomware is also driving interest in effective backups
Another major driver for the conversations I’m having with customers right now is their desire to establish effective backups as insurance in case of successful ransomware attacks. We’ve certainly seen an uptick in ransomware attempts from cybercriminals taking advantage of the pandemic to trick people into opening infected files.
In fact, over the last six months, I’ve seen a great deal more interest from customers wanting to set up air-gapped backups – where the backed-up data is held completely offline.
Unfortunately, despite the many high-profile ransomware attacks, quite a few of my customer interactions start immediately following one of these successful attacks – where shortcomings in existing systems have become extremely apparent.
Quite often, businesses are discovering – at a time when it’s critical – that their recovery times are far too long. It’s not that they haven’t considered data protection to be important, it just hasn’t been the top priority. Many assume that the system that has been effective to date will continue to work a little longer, while they focus on another project.
That is, of course, until they get hacked.
I often think of data protection a bit like insurance. And just like insurance, sometimes you only find out that you don’t have the coverage you thought when you have to claim for an accident.
Last week I met with a customer in this situation. The company had unfortunately fallen victim to one of these ransomware attacks. They had been maintaining the same infrastructure for approximately 15 years and hadn’t really reviewed it to check that it still met their requirements.
As it turned out, their IT wasn’t up to scratch and they were looking at five to six days to restore data – that’s a long time not to be able to run a business effectively.
At the other extreme are the customers who review data protection constantly as part of their business processes to ensure that they are 100% up to date. Typically, this type of customer is in the finance industry. They consider their data protection to be one of their business-critical systems. Of course, most businesses fall somewhere between the two.
But regardless of a customers’ current level of maturity in terms of data protection, my approach with customers is the same. I always start with a detailed discovery – drilling down into the customer’s infrastructure, the applications they run, the industry regulations they need to comply with, and any relevant business organizational issues – for example, if they are responsible for managing IT operations for overseas subsidiaries, this can have a bearing on the optimal architecture.
Determining customer pain points helps identify the right solution
Next, we talk about their pain points. Based on this discovery process – I can often anticipate the challenges they are facing. For example, many businesses struggle to keep up to date with the changes in their software – Microsoft, for example, makes pretty significant changes every few years.
Almost all businesses are wrestling with the sheer volume of data they are now collecting – data protection systems established years ago will most likely not be up to the task of managing the Petabytes of data that businesses now accumulate.
At the time when they set up data protection, they may have had a restore time of half a day or less, but with the exponential growth in data in the intervening time, they could be looking at a week to restore the billions of extra files.
Once we’ve homed in on the pain points they are facing – the next step is to look at potential solutions. At Fujitsu, we can offer a wide selection of data protection solutions – featuring combinations of Fujitsu technology and that of our market-leading partners – Commvault, Veeam, and Veritas.
This means that we can devise a solution that exactly fits their requirements. This sets Fujitsu apart from the conversations with single-product vendors – whose solution is likely to involve some compromise. Having the luxury of a whole portfolio means that there’s absolutely no compromise necessary.
Once that perfect solution has been agreed upon, then it’s time for the technical design. This is where I design the architecture, define the services, plan the migration, and look at the steps needed to set up proofs of concept. Once the contract is signed – we can start with the implementation.
In my market – Luxembourg – the solutions typically involve our appliances. It is very appealing to customers to have a fully integrated device that they do not need to install or configure. They are fast to install and easy to manage.
Our ETERNUS portfolio also covers a wide range of use cases from applications that demand ultra-fast response times, or the consolidation of diverse types of data in a single system, to the deployment of hyper-scale, software-defined storage.
Regardless of the precise solution implemented, our approach at Fujitsu is to collaborate with the customer throughout. Our co-creation methodology establishes trust and transparency on both sides. This allows us to work closely together with customers to co-create joint solutions.
Not only do they have a better sense of ownership and control of the process, customers really appreciate that we take the time to really listen to what they want to achieve and to develop a solution that addresses their issues.
Ultimately, we’re in the business of making their lives easier. By identifying the solutions to customer pain points, we give them peace of mind – and for many, that co-created data protection solution means they get to enjoy their weekends, uninterrupted by callouts.