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Why businesses need a data management strategy

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Both the world and the IT industry are changing at a breathtaking speed, with the Internet of Things (IoT) set to further usher in a host of changes, writes Gary de Menezes, country manager of NetApp South Africa.
Some of these transformations we can already foresee, such as a dramatic impact on storage and data management, as hitherto unprecedented amounts of data are generated, not just by people, but also by smart, connected machines.
This means that companies need to not only respond to the present environment, but also prepare for a tidal wave of change, by having a future-proofed data management strategy in place. Thus businesses need to make three key strategic decisions, most particularly with regards to firstly how they reduce costs, secondly modernise their IT, and finally, how IT and the business consult with each other.
For many, cost reduction is the most obvious concern, particularly due to the current adverse rand/dollar exchange rate. With economic volatility driving up prices, it places IT, already tasked with doing more with less, under even greater pressure. In the midst of this, technology marches inexorably forward, and businesses must innovate so as to remain competitive.
Companies further need to modernise their IT infrastructure across the board in order to adapt to the fundamental shift from the traditional approach to IT towards the third platform, which, by research firm IDC’s definition, is based on online computing and encompasses cloud, mobility, social business and big data.

Consulting is critical
Not to be overlooked is the third concern, which entails consulting with the business, a factor that has grown in importance. While it used to be that IT told a business what it was capable of implementing, and that directed business decisions, those days are over. Now, companies decide what they want to do and if IT can’t keep up, there is a strong likelihood that the business will simply bypass its IT department.
The problem with business sidestepping consultations with the IT department, and buying Amazon Web Services, for example, without IT’s involvement, is that those making the purchasing decisions don’t necessarily understand the ramifications of what they are doing. It is little wonder then that we are seeing the kinds of data breaches that have become more commonplace and frequent than before.

Preparing for the future
These breaches only highlight the fact that data management entails more than solely storage, but critical issues such as security and data sovereignty as well.
Equally as important though, is ensuring that whatever one’s data management strategy is, it is future proofed, and critical to this is ensuring that one isn’t locked into a particular provider. Businesses absolutely need to be able to own their data and move it as and when they wish, from one platform to another, with it being easily accessible.
Granted, customers may not know what hardware they will have in place down the line. However, by relying on a hardware agnostic data management platform that can cater to traditional, current, emerging and future IT, they can ensure that regardless of the hardware they are running on in the years to come, the lifeblood of their business – their data – will be accessible.
It is for this reason that NetApp has concentrated on ensuring flexibility in data management, particularly with our Data ONTAP storage operating system, which is available in array OS, software-only, or cloud-native form. It is also an indication of NetApp’s firm belief that providing customers with absolute freedom with regards to their data is the way forward.

Count the costs
Rather than companies asking the cost of implementing a data management strategy, it is perhaps even more important to consider the cost of not doing so.
For businesses, having their data locked to a particular provider or platform only impairs their agility and ability to respond to a rapidly evolving market, in which sudden disruption has become not just possible, but also highly likely. Ultimately the lack of a data management strategy for companies could not only impair their competitiveness, but affect both their bottom line in the short term, and even their continued success in future.
Quite clearly, data management has simply become essential, and with IoT and even more vast data burgeoning on the horizon, the time to get on top of one’s data management needs is now.