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Navigating the post-Covid digital economy with active archives

data
(Image credit: Shutterstock / carlos castilla)

The pandemic massively impacted business in 2020 as customer behavior radically changed during pandemic conditions. Even when the world crashed to a shutdown-driven standstill, data never stopped and with these swift shutdowns, most companies that lacked remote worker support scrambled to provide it. 

For prepared companies, the issues were an intensive burst of labor and technology purchases lasting a few weeks. For others, attempting to transform and adapt to changed customer behavior and a new work culture within a few weeks was DEFCON 1: a potentially company-killing surprise event. 

Most of the companies that quickly responded already had digital data management like active archiving in place. When physical offices suddenly emptied, these businesses quickly accommodated remote workers. They also had access to data analytics and storage economies, which boosted competitive advantage and cost savings. 

But the world has also changed, and businesses must change with it. So, while 2020 was about businesses surviving massive changes in work culture and customer behavior, 2021 is about using data to thrive during permanent changes and market uncertainty. 

As the world assesses the post-Covid-19 digital economy, IT leaders remain acutely focused on cost, data analytics, and security. Containing the costs of rapidly growing unstructured data continues to be critical as companies recognize the growing value of data and the need to store ever-increasing volumes for more extended periods cost-effectively. And new applications and technologies are enabling organizations to leverage their data in fresh, innovative ways to drive insight and advantage. 

Artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytics can automate file placement across multiple tiers and storage types, including flash, hard disk, tape, and the cloud. This data stays immediately accessible for file sharing and business/research analytics to support competitive advantage. Intelligent data tiering and automation are playing major roles in managing unstructured data at petabyte scale today and will support exabyte scale in the coming years. 

Data security is a critical priority in an era of escalating cybercrime and swelling data repositories. With businesses relying heavily on data collection, usage, distribution, and monetization, securing that data is crucial to protecting business objectives. 

Intelligent active archive solutions based on AI can classify massive amounts of data and automatically move it according to user-defined policy from expensive storage tiers to economy tiers while keeping the archived data highly accessible and secure.

So, what exactly is an active archive? 

Unlike backup, which contains multiple copies of files, basic archiving creates a master copy of a file and stores it on a less expensive storage tier. In practice, copies still exist, but the archive saves space since it is not subject to backup. 

Active archiving builds on this foundation by providing secure access, data protection, high availability, searchability, fast retrieval, and virtually unlimited scalability for unstructured files. 

Enterprise Strategy Group defines active archive as “a tiered storage topology/ solution that gives IT systems or human end-users access to data through a common, unified file system that automatically retrieves and places that data on the appropriate storage tier.” These storage tiers may be multi-vendor, on-premises, and in a hybrid cloud and comprise different storage media types. 

Software intelligence is the key to automatically storing accessible data in the most appropriate storage class according to its use and purpose. Metadata provides searchability and accessibility no matter where data is located, keeping data easily retrievable. AI and machine learning (ML) enable trending, access patterns, activity logging, automatic data movement, and compliance analysis. 

Managing unstructured data throughout its lifecycle is a big and expensive undertaking. With active archiving’s AI-driven file and workflow automation, companies can save money and time, keep files at any stage of their lifecycle accessible, and stay in compliance. Given exponential data growth that shows no signs of slowing down, active archiving goes from a helpful-to- have to a mission-critical system. 

Active archiving works freely across flash, hard disk, tape, and the cloud, so data remains highly accessible and economically stored by individual file value and compliance/retention requirements. 

Data-based movement, or data centricity, is central to active archiving. For example, data-driven automation founded on AI technology streamlines the transfer of large data workflows from on-premises to archive tiers on the cloud. Accelerating the process and accurately predicting the cost and time to move the files enables users to make intelligent business decisions and minimize project costs. 

Active archiving is the core technology response to managing fast-growing data for accessibility, security, compliance, and competitive advantage. Active archiving’s data-centric software intelligence simplifies data accessibility across multiple storage mediums and locations. File- and workflow-driven policies automate data movement, migration, data protection, and retention within a transparent and accessible data structure. And air gap technology, plus the ability to create and track multiple copies strengthen cybersecurity. 

Highly affordable

Active archive stays highly affordable because it saves money. The core system intelligence that keeps data highly accessible across multiple storage types and locations also automates data movement from expensive storage tiers to progressively inexpensive ones. 

A second opportunity for serious cost savings is data retention. With some retention requirements reaching a century, economic retention savings grow over time. 

Of course, anyone can cheaply store files by executing a put-and-forget strategy to a cold storage tier. But without active archiving’s data intelligence and automation, that data movement occurs manually across multiple sources – assuming IT even knows where the aging files live.  In this case, manual data movement isn’t easy, and it’s not accurate. 

Instead, active archiving uses intelligent data management software to automatically classify and move data across multiple storage tiers and locations. This native intelligence keeps even aging data easily accessible while saving money and time. Since storage intelligence operates across multi-locational storage infrastructure, companies can better capitalize data value and cost-effectively store ever-increasing volumes for longer periods of time.

If yesterday was about saving money on tiering inactive data, today is about deploying active archiving for cost savings, AI-automated data classification and movement, and securing archives. Companies can quickly adapt to massive market changes with active archiving for centralized data access, analytics, automation, and dynamic scaling. 

Acting now to adopt and expand active archives will enable businesses to survive fundamental market changes – now and into the future of an uncertain world.

Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media USA, Inc., Co-Chairperson, The Active Archive Alliance
Betsy Doughty, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Spectra Logic, Co-Chairperson,
The Active Archive Alliance