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World Backup Day: Small data sprawl is not only a challenge, but an opportunity

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/scyther5)

This is the day to start building your next-generation data protection strategy. As organisations are straining to adjust to remote work, adopt new technology like IoT, and shift to cloud, data protection should be a priority. The evolving data landscape demands a modern approach to data protection, so the business can support its new initiatives and grow with confidence. While the challenges may seem overwhelming, backup teams have the rare opportunity to use new technology to simplify protection, connect with the business, and deliver more value than ever.

Small data sprawl – the new challenge

Most data protection strategies still revolve around the data centre, where the goal is to scale centralised backup and recovery at the lowest cost. While data centres are large and still growing, they share very little with rapidly growing cloud-centric application and data architectures. As the data architecture changes, so will data protection.

Organisations are building an extensive network of small data repositories. Business-critical data now resides on remote workers’ laptops, IoT devices, SaaS services, and cloud-native applications. In addition to more devices and more platforms, data is also created, analysed, and stored in more regions. Companies are moving from big data centres to small data sprawl.

Small data sprawl creates a new set of data protection challenges. Organisations need to find and backup data that may be stored on hundreds of thousands of devices, instead of centralised pools of VMs and storage. Since those devices will be distributed throughout the world, protection must comply with both local and global regulations. Meanwhile the data will feed into new applications built on new infrastructure (e.g. cloud), instead of the traditional data centre workloads. IT needs to protect more data in more places with more regulations and more complex application dependencies.

Small data sprawl also expands the definition of backup. More endpoints expose organisations to a greater risk from cyberthreats, and they expect backup to help detect and recover from those attacks. More complex, custom-built applications require a more automated disaster recovery solution, so backup must capture application definitions as well as data. AI/ML-driven applications will be subject to privacy and fairness regulations, so businesses will be required to reproduce historical results using the original algorithm and dataset. In the new data architecture, backup can be an integral part of cybersecurity, disaster recovery, and compliance.

While the challenges can seem overwhelming, the technology which created small data sprawl also helps protect it.

Cloud and SaaS – the new architecture

A cloud-centric data architecture demands a cloud-centric protection solution. Cloud alone has the scale and connectivity to backup all the endpoints and devices. Since cloud providers operate in multiple regions, companies can use local storage to meet compliance regulations. Then, as the data moves into the cloud-native applications, only a cloud-centric backup solution will be able to protect the application’s data where it lives.

The cloud’s flexibility then enables organisations to flag personal identification information (PII) as it is backed up, recreate environments from a point in time for disaster recovery, and identify anomalous patterns emerging in the backup data for cyberattack detection. In the cloud, companies run these processes on-demand to reduce cost and complexity.

Many teams adopt SaaS to accelerate their data protection evolution. With so many new requirements, why spend time troubleshooting failed backups, upgrading systems and software, and micromanaging schedules, when SaaS providers solve those problems? For example, SaaS backups are already isolated from production environments, so backup teams do not need to build air-gaps to protect themselves from cyberattacks. SaaS providers bring expertise around cloud internals, compliance regulations, and security that enable the backup team to focus on its business.

Cloud and SaaS are driving the next generation data architecture, so they also underpin next-generation data protection solutions, as well.

Metadata – the new opportunity

As organisations face new challenges, backup teams have an opportunity to take a more strategic role.

The backup team’s journey begins by connecting with the business via modern application support. Business units build cloud-native solutions because IT’s unresponsiveness drives them to “Shadow IT.”  Still, they understand the value of protecting their data from mistakes, disasters, and attacks, and they don’t want to do that work on their own. When a backup team shows it can protect a business unit’s cloud applications quickly and easily, other groups quickly enlist their services. The backup catalogue becomes a metadata hub of all the organisation’s applications and datasets.

After building the metadata hub, backup teams can now help the legal organisation. Legal teams need to search for data across the entire environment to satisfy privacy and e-discovery requests. Since it includes endpoints, data centres, SaaS applications, and cloud-native applications, the backup metadata hub can help the legal team find the data they need for everything from “Right to Access” GDPR requests to PII identification to legal hold.

Meanwhile, the security team needs help protecting against cyberattacks. The backup metadata hub can help identify anomalous data patterns in the backups. Then, it can restore entire applications to previous points in time, so ransomware recovery becomes simple and reliable.

Small data sprawl is forcing companies to evolve their data management strategies. Traditional data centre backup cannot protect a new cloud-centric data architecture that stores more data in more places. Fortunately, using cloud-native solutions and SaaS tools will not only allow businesses to tackle these challenges head-on, but it will also help them to continually innovate and evolve. In fact, it gives backup teams the opportunity to connect to the business, legal, and security teams.

World Backup Day is not just a reminder of the challenges facing our backup strategies, but also the opportunities for the people who protect our data and our businesses. This truly is the day to start building your next-generation data protection strategy.

Stephen Manley, Chief Technologist, Druva