Organizations of all sizes today appreciate the need for transformation into data-driven businesses. However, carrying out this transformation can be challenging, not least of all, as managing enterprise data is a moving target.
From accommodating growing volumes of data to making sure you consider new data sources that are constantly being added, it’s vital to effectively manage the entire data lifecycle.
Businesses must optimize multiple different technologies and ensure they work together. The need to deploy effective archiving is one of the key foundational technologies, yet too often overlooked. Ultimately, the ability to optimize the storage of archive data is key to effectively leveraging this data.
Backups are not archives
The proliferation of cyberattacks over the last few years and the very public data breaches suffered by some of the largest companies in the world have emphasized the importance of effective backup processes – driving businesses to invest in these preventative strategies.
However, these essential backups should not be confused with archives. Backups can be considered as essentially an emergency recovery system for small or large quantities of data. For example, they help overcome the accidental deletion of needed files to a complete system restore in the event of a virus.
On the other hand, data archives are where information is held over a significant amount of time for retrieval long after it is no longer regularly accessed – perhaps for compliance purposes.
Traditionally, many businesses archived data because they were required to do so by regulatory compliance. In many cases, this data simply languished on half-forgotten disks, and everybody just hoped it would never be needed.
However, with the advent of artificial intelligence and the business insights that can be derived from analyzing what was once considered data with little or no value, old information has a new, important role to play. Combining historical data with current operational data and other sources of information can help businesses better understand how to create new business models, improve efficiency and enhance customer service.
Benefits and Use Cases of Data Archiving
Compliance: These requirements for data storage have not gone away, and businesses still need long-term immutable data storage, whether or not they have moved to the cloud. There are related benefits – for a start, good archiving requires good governance, which in turn requires effective data discovery and automatic classification. Being able to classify data and retrieve information quickly when needed will deliver long-term benefits.
Cost reduction: By moving data not needed for day-to-day operations from more expensive primary storage locations to more cost-effective archive storage locations, businesses can save money. That’s because typically, primary storage is based on flash arrays to ensure a high level of IOPS to meet read/write demands. Data archiving solutions tend to use lower-cost media such as nearline SAS drives, tape or optical storage, and many businesses opt to archive their data in the cloud. In addition, relocating relevant data to archives means that it is not adding to the business’ backup data volume. It is surprisingly easy to generate multiple backup copies of data that belongs in an archive. An unnecessarily large backup will also take longer to restore.
Risk mitigation: Creating a physical air gap by locating archives in a separate location to primary storage is another line of defence against data-destroying ransomware attacks as the data can be kept entirely separate and offline until needed. The use of Write Once, Read Many (WORM) for archived data provides further protection by making the data immutable.
Hybrid cloud adoption, data access: The principle behind Hybrid IT is to put each workload in the optimal location, based on factors such as cost, performance, availability, and security. Today’s sophisticated archive systems can capture and retain data from anywhere – from on-premises to private and public clouds.
Data analytics / real-time analysis: Arguably, the most significant opportunity for archive data is the ‘second life’ it gets when used for analysis or decision making. Having a complete long-term view of the business, from customers to partners and supply chains, can significantly affect business performance. A growing proportion of this unstructured data is generated by the Internet of Things and its edge devices – information that is proving invaluable to deliver insights in future data analysis.
Archiving systems have come a long way
Today’s archiving systems are very different animals to the past solutions – they now deliver both significantly increased functionality and reduced complexity. There’s more choice than ever, so businesses looking to find the best-fit solution for their unique requirements should take the following considerations into account:
- Scalability: Archives need to belong-lived and must be able to accommodate businesses’ rapidly growing data.
- Accessibility: Today’s data doesn’t just comprise files and blocks – businesses now produce a wide range of data formats, structured and unstructured, including large file sizes.
- Availability: Businesses undertaking real-time analytics require 24x7 data availability.
- Data discovery and classification: The potential for using data discovery, search and automatic classification grows with the volume of archived data.
- Long-term support: All IT systems that contribute to a business's success and security require excellent support over time.
- Implementation guidance and good practice: Building a modern, fully functional, well-governed information archive is a complex undertaking as it requires the seamless integration of multiple systems. Most businesses will benefit from advice and guidance from a trusted partner to help them identify and deploy the archive they need.
Is it time to optimize your information archiving approach?
Archive optimization is the next step on the digital transformation journey for many businesses. Traditional offline “cold archive” solutions are becoming increasingly unattractive for those who want to leverage all their data effectively.
As they become increasingly data-driven and strive to leverage all their data, they are taking a more strategic view of the archiving function, which encompasses the archives and associated technologies and the operational processes and business policies needed to ensure its success.
For more details about modern archiving, and where it might make sense to use it as an integral component of enterprise data and information management, read the white paper from Freeform Dynamics: The importance of modern data archiving.