At today\u2019s businesses, data has become the new rhodium, the world\u2019s 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.\nNot 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.\nBut 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\u2019s 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.\nData Management Challenges\nDigital 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.\nEvery data set requires IT managers to make decisions. \u201cOrganizations have to decide which data to keep and for how long, where to put it, and how to make it searchable,\u201d says Kim Stevenson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NetApp Foundational Data Services. \u201cWith so many types of data and so many different users, it can be difficult to get solid answers to these questions.\u201d\nDifficulties 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\u2019t find better ways of managing their data will soon find themselves falling behind those that do.\n\u201cBusinesses that manage their data effectively derive unique insights from it and tend to move quicker and be leaders in their industries,\u201d says Stevenson. \u201cIt gives them a significant competitive advantage.\u201d \u00a0\nFocusing on Users\nIn the past, decisions about data governance and management were driven by compliance and budget considerations. While these concerns remain crucial, the emphasis has changed.\n\u201cToday, it\u2019s about what we do with the data, how we can monetize it and use it to make better decisions,\u201d Stevenson says. \u201cThat means you need to focus on the user community.\u201d\nAnd what today\u2019s users need, Stevenson says, is seamless connectivity.\n\u201cIf a customer calls support, the sales team needs to know about the problem. If it\u2019s 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.\u201d\nYou also need lightning speed and reliable connectivity, especially when users collaborate in real time. Using the right software can help. For example, NetApp\u2019s ONTAP solution increases efficiency by caching only actively used \u201chot\u201d data, instead of making users wait to receive entire project or multimedia files containing information they don\u2019t 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.\nManaging Security Challenges\nAs more data flows through more applications, it inevitably increases risk.\n\u201cIn today\u2019s world, you have to assume you\u2019re going to be attacked \u2013 you just don\u2019t know when or where,\u201d Stevenson says. Hackers have also become more sophisticated, launching well-planned, widespread attacks such as Solar Winds. \u201cThe blast radius is huge,\u201d says Stevenson.\nBacking up data for disaster recovery has also become problematic. In the past, organizations did backups every night. Today, companies can\u2019t afford to lose a day of transactions, so they back up data continuously, increasing risk.\nRansomware 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. \u201cIt\u2019s essential to detect malicious code when you\u2019re backing up,\u201d Stevenson says.\nNetApp does that with Active IQ, which deploys AI and machine learning to continually inspect backup systems \u2013 as well as storage throughout the enterprise \u2013 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.\nImproving Compliance\nCompliance may no longer be the raison d\u2019\u00eatre for strong data governance, but it\u2019s still a major concern. Breaches and data mismanagement have thrust data privacy issues into the global spotlight, and regulations have proliferated across industries.\nCompanies 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.\nIn addition, organizations may want to work with a partner to ensure adherence to changing industry-specific rules.\n\u201cIn 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,\u201d Stevenson says.\nExpanding Data Capabilities\nAs 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.\nBut 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.\n\u201cCompanies must carefully consider the way they architect their data to provide accessibility and security,\u201d Stevenson says. \u201cThe decisions they make today will go a long way toward determining future success.\u201d\nLearn more about how NetApp is the\u00a0hybrid cloud leader\u00a0who can help you navigate the journey ahead.