At today’s businesses, data has become the new rhodium, the world’s most valuable resource. The insights data provides drive critical decisions across the enterprise, from setting strategy to developing new products, managing workflows, and finding ways to attract and retain customers.
Not surprisingly, IT and business leaders have made data and business analytics a top investment priority, according to the 2020 IDG State of the CIO report. Without the North Star of data to guide them, leaders would waste time and money on ineffective initiatives and fall behind savvy competitors.
But data is only helpful if you can find what you need when you need it and put it to good use. To do that, you need to manage it consistently and ensure that it’s secure and compliant at all times. As data volumes expand across new applications and services, many organizations are looking for new ways of managing their data.
Data Management Challenges
Digital transformation has created an explosion of enterprise data from the Internet of Things and Edge computing, transactional systems, and unstructured sources like social media. All this has been amplified by remote work technology adding heavy loads from rich-media videoconferencing. According to IDC, the amount of data created over the next three years will exceed the amount created in the past 30, reaching 175 zettabytes by 2025.
Every data set requires IT managers to make decisions. “Organizations have to decide which data to keep and for how long, where to put it, and how to make it searchable,” says Kim Stevenson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NetApp Foundational Data Services. “With so many types of data and so many different users, it can be difficult to get solid answers to these questions.”
Difficulties are compounded by a lack of common architecture, with data stored in different formats across the company and in multiple public clouds. In addition to creating management headaches, raising costs, and introducing potential security gaps, data silos are a stumbling block to collaboration at a time when remote work and global outsourcing make it a necessity. Organizations that don’t find better ways of managing their data will soon find themselves falling behind those that do.
“Businesses that manage their data effectively derive unique insights from it and tend to move quicker and be leaders in their industries,” says Stevenson. “It gives them a significant competitive advantage.”
Focusing on Users
In the past, decisions about data governance and management were driven by compliance and budget considerations. While these concerns remain crucial, the emphasis has changed.
“Today, it’s about what we do with the data, how we can monetize it and use it to make better decisions,” Stevenson says. “That means you need to focus on the user community.”
And what today’s users need, Stevenson says, is seamless connectivity.
“If a customer calls support, the sales team needs to know about the problem. If it’s an engineering problem, the engineering maintenance team needs to be looped in and tie back to sales in case other customers need to be notified. That means you need an automated data stream and a common record locator across all of those databases.”
You also need lightning speed and reliable connectivity, especially when users collaborate in real time. Using the right software can help. For example, NetApp’s ONTAP solution increases efficiency by caching only actively used “hot” data, instead of making users wait to receive entire project or multimedia files containing information they don’t need. Instant failover keeps workers going, blissfully unaware of IT problems or outages, and the application automatically moves cold data to lower-cost storage before expenses get out of hand.
Managing Security Challenges
As more data flows through more applications, it inevitably increases risk.
“In today’s world, you have to assume you’re going to be attacked – you just don’t know when or where,” Stevenson says. Hackers have also become more sophisticated, launching well-planned, widespread attacks such as Solar Winds. “The blast radius is huge,” says Stevenson.
Backing up data for disaster recovery has also become problematic. In the past, organizations did backups every night. Today, companies can’t afford to lose a day of transactions, so they back up data continuously, increasing risk.
Ransomware attackers who lock up access to important data are increasingly going after backed-up data too, leaving companies defenseless in the face of an intrusion. “It’s essential to detect malicious code when you’re backing up,” Stevenson says.
NetApp does that with Active IQ, which deploys AI and machine learning to continually inspect backup systems – as well as storage throughout the enterprise – for security vulnerabilities, as well as misconfigurations, outdated firmware, and failing hardware. It contains threats and prevents unauthorized deletion of backup data. It also alerts IT to maintenance issues before they become a problem for users or a beacon to intruders who exploit vulnerabilities.
Compliance may no longer be the raison d’être for strong data governance, but it’s still a major concern. Breaches and data mismanagement have thrust data privacy issues into the global spotlight, and regulations have proliferated across industries.
Companies can use data management software to make electronic records unalterable, while remaining quickly accessible to those who need them. Automated management also makes audits easier and faster.
In addition, organizations may want to work with a partner to ensure adherence to changing industry-specific rules.
“In the public cloud, you need to build compliance yourself, but a hybrid cloud provider like IBM offers a financial services cloud, a telco cloud, and other solutions that keep you up to date with requirements for particular industries,” Stevenson says.
Expanding Data Capabilities
As organizations collect and analyze more data, its importance will continue to grow. AI algorithms will reveal trends as the data they ingest accrues over time. Data-driven guidance will get smarter, leading companies to better decisions, more accurate predictions, and greater confidence in exploring new initiatives.
But that can only happen if organizations ensure that their data flows seamlessly across clouds and platforms and remains secure and compliant wherever it goes, in transit and at rest.
“Companies must carefully consider the way they architect their data to provide accessibility and security,” Stevenson says. “The decisions they make today will go a long way toward determining future success.”
Learn more about how NetApp is the hybrid cloud leader who can help you navigate the journey ahead.