Why Data Protection tops your 2021 to-do list

By Lucas Salter, General Manager ANZ and APJ, Data Protection Solutions, Dell Technologies

Saying that a lot changed technologically in the past 12 months is an understatement akin to saying fish are “quite partial” to water. Faced with unthinkable disruption, businesses and governments fast-tracked digital transformation as a matter of survival. This shift brought with it an explosion in data that needs to be managed and protected differently, making addressing this a top priority for the months and years ahead.

Managing, protecting and recovering data from traditional and modern applications across core data centres, edge computing locations and hybrid cloud means public and private organisations can’t manage data in the same way that they did in the past. Significant data growth is resulting in organisations needing to rethink how they store and protect their data on a larger scale, more efficiently. IDC reports the rise of data protection appliances has led to it becoming a US$4 billion global market[1].

There is also growing recognition how much data protection can enhance or inhibit the ability to innovate, with the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index 3 finding that the top barrier to Digital Transformation in 2020 was cited as data privacy and security concerns (36%).

With the adoption of hybrid work and properly established work-from-home practices likely to continue and the growth in 5G or AI and Machine Learning as necessary business tools, managing and protecting data will be critical for any organisation.

Re-thinking data protection

The recent explosion in data has been matched by an explosion in threats with cyberattacks on Australian governments and organisations. Data protection isn’t as simple as telling people to be more careful about the websites that they visit or reminding them to regularly change their password.

Organisations have data and applications distributed across multiple locations such as data centres, remote work sites and hybrid cloud deployments, and that means the threats also come from every angle. The Dell Technologies 2020 Global Data Protection Index Snapshot showed the ongoing importance of maintaining a thorough data protection approach, especially as the amount of data organisations need to manage grows. While almost all (98%) of those surveyed said they were investing in emerging technologies, just over half (52%) cited the lack of data protection solutions for them as a challenge.

While the post-pandemic world comes one step closer each day, it’s clear that some version of things such as remote working is here for the long haul. Now more than ever, it’s clear the way that organisations protect their data requires re-thinking.

Turning off the unsecured data tap

Last year revealed that, while internet infrastructure is largely capable of handling the increased load brought about by the shift to remote working, there’s a need for networks to be as responsive in the home as they are in a properly provisioned office space.

Without the same level of service, workers may put important data handling behaviours to one side for the sake of convenience. If establishing a connection to an application or data takes too long, people will just start saving more documents on their personal devices, essentially putting the whole procedure into the “too hard basket.” This is undeniably poor data protection best practice and leads to exposed data and “double handling” or duplication of data across multiple platforms, creating data bloat.

The scale of this problem shouldn’t be underestimated, and it highlights the need to move away from securing the perimeter to securing information. If even one person in an organisation is saving to their personal device, multiply that person by hundreds, or even thousands of companies. It’s a staggering amount of unsecured data. Building a data protection model that works seamlessly whether someone’s in the office or at their local café will stop the loss of valuable information or insight.

Storing Edge Data  

To securely manage the enormous amount of data being generated at the edge, organisations need to invest in infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, and manageable.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) decreases complexity, increases scalability and offers the ability to adopt a hybrid cloud that puts workloads where they are best served. And moving workloads to the cloud can lower costs, deliver more control, and improve security.

As you look to storage technologies that can help solve this problem, it’s critical to understand your business needs – both today and in the future.

Developing methods to retain governance of data will be another critical area requiring attention, particularly given the increase in data silos as organisations adopt multi and hybrid cloud strategies. Making sure that data is kept safe and is managed correctly while maintaining accessibility will help mitigate the problem of employees leaving organisations exposed. The adoption of new infrastructure will also make sure that data is kept within reach of the people who need to use it.

Managing Unstructured Data at the Edge

Much of the data being generated is unstructured. Collecting it all is one thing. Accessing it, understanding it and keeping it safe, is another. There remain significant challenges for organisations wanting to find what they need in this huge pool of unstructured data thanks to the volume, location and inherent un-structured nature of data.

Storing unstructured data has become easier thanks to the prevalence of all-flash, hybrid and archive NAS platforms that appeal to all budgets. Artificial Intelligence technologies are being used to explore and analyse unstructured data. Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Pattern Recognition algorithms and Speech-to-Text conversion all have a role to play in sorting through and understanding your data.

The importance of a data protection strategy

Protecting the endpoint has become an important element in securing data. Having a consistent and strategic data management and protection process in place is vital to keeping business on track.

This new world in which we find ourselves will require companies to shore up their edge and core security and capabilities. As a result, data protection requires a thorough and systemic approach to protect organisations’ most valuable resource – data – regardless of its location.

Your data protection strategy needs to be exactly that, a strategy. You can’t just react; you need to plan and proceed deliberately and with reason.

[1] IDC Market Spotlight, Purpose Built Backup Appliances 2019 Market Results

About the Author: Lucas Salter