Storage Soup

Feb 28 2012   9:22AM GMT

Data protection in transition

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

The increase in data capacity demand makes it difficult for Information Technology to continue with existing data protection practices. Many organizations have realized their protection methods are unsustainable, mainly because of the impact of the increased capacity demand and budget limitations.

The increase in capacity demands come from many sources. These include business expansion, the need to retain more information for longer periods of time, data types such as rich media that are more voluminous than in the past, and an avalanche of machine-to-machine data used in big data analytics.

The data increase requires more storage systems, which are usually funded through capital expense. Often these are paid for as part of a project with one-time project funds.

The increase in data also changes the backup process. The amount of time required to protect the information may extend beyond what is practical from a business operations standpoint. The amount of data to protect may require more backup systems than can physically be accommodated.

It is common for new projects to budget for the capital expenses required. Unfortunately, the increase in operational expenses is rarely enough to support the data protection impact. The administration expenses from increased time spent by the staff in handling the data can be estimated, but is difficult to add to the project budget because it is an ongoing expense rather than a one-time expense.

Unexpected data growth can exceed capacity-based licensing thresholds and turn into an unpleasant budget-buster. Even expenses related to external resources such as disaster recovery copies of information may ratchet up past thresholds.

There are new approaches to data protection. However, there is usually not enough funding available to implement alternative data protection approaches. Changing procedures in IT is also difficult because of the training required and the amount of risk that is introduced.

Vendors see the opportunities, and address them with approaches that make the most economic sense for them. The most common approach is to enhance existing products, improving their speed and effective capability. Another vendor approach is to introduce new data protection appliances combining software and hardware to simplify operations. Whether these are long-term solutions or merely incremental improvements depends on the specific environment.

Another approach evolving with vendors is to include data protection as an integral part of a storage system. This involves adding a set of policy controls for protection and data movers for automated data protection. These come in the form of block storage systems with the ability to selectively replicate delta changes to volumes and in network attached storage systems that can migrate or copy data based on rules to another storage system. Implementing this type of protection requires software to manage recovery and retention of the protected data.

A change must be made to continue the IT mandate for protecting information. However, the fundamental problem with data protection addressing capacity demand is economics. For most IT operations, the solution cannot represent a major investment and it must be administratively cost-neutral to a great extent. Current data protection solutions that meet those requirements are hard to find.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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