IDC's market analysis predicts that worldwide data creation will grow to a phenomenal 163 zettabytes by 2025. On the heels of this finding, it's no surprise that 88 per cent of UK respondents believe data volume will increase 10x or more in the next five years, as demonstrated in a recent StorageCraft study into IT decision-makers' attitudes to data growth.
As a result, what used to be the realm of huge enterprises, with large IT teams to support them, is increasingly becoming a problem faced by small and medium businesses alike. Just ten years ago, only big companies would need to consider supporting petabytes of storage. However, thanks to the growing use of increasingly sophisticated technologies, and increasing regulation necessitating the storage of vast amounts of information, a more substantial capacity is now a must, even for SMBs.
But what does this mean for businesses?
Our research showed that a whopping 81 per cent of IT decision-makers were concerned about the risk, and the business impact data growth will have on their organisation. The number one concern, perhaps unsurprisingly, was an increase in operational costs, with 61 per cent of respondents citing it as a worry. Naturally, the more data a business stores, the more it will have to pay.
It's essential to consider the type of data growth we are seeing. By 2022, experts predict that 93 per cent of all digital data will be unstructured - freeform information that does not fit neatly into databases organised by fixed categories. From email and text messages to audio files, YouTube uploads and PDFs, unstructured data is growing at a rapid rate. Meanwhile, legacy infrastructure is failing to keep up; aside from concerns around physically storing the information, there are more significant worries when it comes to efficiently managing data.
Unlike structured data, which grows predictably, unstructured data grows unpredictably and limitlessly, with ramifications both for management and security. An infrastructure that can't scale and adapt to unpredictable data growth exposes the data to risk. Ultimately this calls for a storage infrastructure that can support growth and without creating a weakness. For these scenarios, object-based scale-out storage stands out. It gives organisations the means to deal with exponential data growth in a cost-effective way.
Planning for disasters
Businesses can't avoid every type of disaster. Years ago, most recovery requests related to natural disasters like server failures, flooding, storms, and fires. Nowadays, many complications result from ransomware attacks with entire data centres that need data recovery. The ability to get any business up and running again depends mainly on the preparations that have been put in place before a crisis hits so that mission-critical data and systems can be recovered as soon as possible.
This is where Disaster Recovery (DR) plans come in. A DR plan outlines the technology, processes, and procedures to recover critical IT business data, with the prime objective of minimising downtime after an emergency or crisis so that a business can be up and running as soon as possible.
Recovering in the event of an outage
Interestingly, in the UK, nearly half (47 per cent) of respondents foresaw an inability to recover quickly enough in the event of a data outage. While not wholly unexpected, this is a worrying trend. Generally, ransomware attacks are on the rise. Moreover, the fact that businesses store ever-increasing amounts of data, increases the number of entry points that cybercriminals can exploit.
Within those we surveyed, 46 per cent of UK respondents believed it would take them up to an entire day to recover from an incident. Many companies depend on their data - and with it taking such a long time to recover, the knock-on impact can be huge. Having critical data and systems unavailable negatively impacts company reputation and can result in the potential loss of revenues.
Organisations are often unclear about the best way to keep their files and systems safe, but there are plenty of preventative measures that can be taken to avoid the costly risk of downtime. Arguably the most critical factors are backing up and recovering data quickly and efficiently, and regularly testing their recovery plans. With only 13 per cent saying they have an IT infrastructure that would enable them to recover in an hour, it’s clear businesses need to put in place systems and processes to address this.
What was clear from our research is that rampant data growth and inadequate IT infrastructures are a significant source of concern and risk. Many organisations struggle or even fail, to deliver business continuity in the event of severe data outages. Despite IT managers' heroic efforts to maintain performance, we are reaching an inflection point where organisations cannot keep up with the volume and complexity of data management.
Businesses of all sizes and industries strive to flourish in increasingly data-driven economies. To succeed, businesses must shape their infrastructure to support and secure the massive quantities of data expected both now and in the future.
Andy Zollo, Vice President of EMEA Sales, StorageCraft