Data volumes are growing exponentially as the world digitises, and businesses continue to unlock the value held in their information. And yet there is ample evidence that companies are not taking adequate measures to protect their data. According to research conducted by Vanson Bourne for EMC, 74% of European and South African companies doubt their ability to recover fully after a disaster.
“Even more worrying, just over half of the companies surveyed suffered some sort of data loss or system downtime in the course of the last year,” comments Bradley Janse van Rensburg, solutions design manager at ContinuitySA. “Disasters continue to happen and they are typically the result of mundane rather than dramatic occurrences: hardware failure (61%), power outages (42%) and data corruption (25%). The technology to solve this problem exists but too few companies are using it effectively.”
He was speaking at a webinar that was part of ContinuitySA’s contribution to the annual Business Continuity Awareness Week, which took place between 18 and 22 March around the world.
“It’s important to understand what your company’s systems and strategies are, and the nature of the various protection methods,” Mr Janse van Rensburg says.
The most common approaches to the protection and recovery of ICT systems include high availability, replication, backup and archiving. The most important of these, because most companies rely on it as the copy of last resort, is backup.
One of the key things to get right from the start is de-duplication, which can reduce the amount of data stored by up 30 times, and the amount of data moved by up to 95%. All of these reductions result in the use of processing power for backup being reduced by up to 80% and the amount of bandwidth needed by up to 99%.
“De-duplication changes everything,” Mr Janse van Rensburg says.
Tape backup remains surprisingly pervasive: 40% of European companies still rely on it, but 80% want to move to disk-based backup. The move to disk-based backup is being driven by several benefits, among them strong de-duplication capabilities, the viability of change-only backups and strong indexing/ search functionality. Encryption makes it very safe. Restore and backup speeds are generally faster, and the medium is more durable than tape.
Hosted backup is also gaining in popularity because it offers all the benefits of disk-based backup and pay-per-use costing models. A local vault combined with offsite storage means that both backing up and restoring can be speedy; an additional benefit is the safe and quick transmission of backups offsite. Companies become highly dependent on their provider, however, so it is important to choose only the best.
Cloud-based backups are also gaining momentum. Like all cloud services, they offer pay-per-use pricing and are extremely cost-competitive thanks to economies of scale. Because they are online, they offer easy access and a high degree of self-provisioning. However, notes Mr Janse van Rensburg, clouds present large targets for attack and users do not know where their data is stored or under what legal regime.
Whatever method is chosen, Mr Janse van Rensburg says that it is very important to keep plans current.
“The research shows that almost half the companies review their backup and recovery plans (and commit more budget to them) only after disaster strikes,” he comments. “That’s too late. You need to understand your current system and data landscape well, and then agree on meaningful metrics to measure improvement. It’s important to see ICT protection improvement as continuous, and to begin with your biggest pain points. Finally, align the ICT protection plan to the bigger ICT and business strategies, and constantly build awareness and thus trust within the organisation.”