Work from home (WFH) is here to stay, and it has changed the way we access business data.
By Hemant Harie, MD of Gabsten Technologies
The monolithic server structure has firmly given way to cloud-based storage systems that enable anytime, anywhere access, along with greater flexibility and agility – as well as new challenges. Organisations need to change the way they approach data management and protection to cater for this, but far from being a grudge purchase, this should be seen as an opportunity for improvement. Data management can be a tool for strategic business advantage, outside of protecting data and complying with regulations.
Work from home, work from anywhere
While the pandemic was the catalyst for the shift to WFH, many organisations have been steadily implementing remote working capabilities, and this trend shows no signs of abating.
In fact, according the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide, by 2022, 74% of organisations will have moved at least 5% of their normally full-time, on-site workers, who had switched to working from home temporarily, into permanent remote-working positions.
This move toward working remotely has been enabled by cloud solutions, another trend that Gartner predicts will accelerate. According to the report, by 2023, more than 50% of large organisations will connect to cloud providers using direct cloud connectivity from their Wide Area Networks (WANs), up from 10% in 2019.
What this means for data
Not only does this shift in working mean that data must be accessible from anywhere, it also means data is being generated everywhere, and outside of the typical organisational boundaries. Where previously, employees were inside of a secure perimeter in a formal office environment, now this perimeter has been completely pushed out, and it is amorphous and continually shifting.
This means that security needs to change – it is impossible to lock down a perimeter that is constantly changing, so protection mechanisms need to adapt. In fact, entire data management strategies need to change.
Not just about security
When Covid forced companies to move rapidly to the cloud and a WFH strategy simply to survive, security vulnerabilities abounded. Cybercrime saw a resultant boom as threat actors sought to take advantage of the chaos. End points and workstations are potentially susceptible to threats and must be adequately protected no matter where they are. It is also still essential to maintain traditional security best practices, as the old threats have not gone away.
However, while data security is obviously still important, security is only a single element of effective data management.
As the world has moved further into the digital realm, there is also a growing body of regulation around protecting personally identifying information (PII). In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) imposes hefty penalties to companies that expose personal information, knowingly or not. In order to mitigate the multiple risks to data that we face today, organisations need multiple layers of data management and a service provider to manage the complexity of the data management platform.
Opportunity, not a grudge
For most businesses, data management is viewed in terms of its core functionality – data backup and recovery. This means that it is usually a grudge purchase, much like an insurance policy. However, data management has massive potential beyond this ‘insurance’ and can be used to help businesses grow and adapt in the post-pandemic world.
For example, data management tools often have replication and deduplication functionality built in, inherently to perform backup functionality. This same functionality can, in fact, also be used in the production environment. Instead of spending limited IT budget on a separate solution for the production environment, organisations could be leveraging technology they already pay for to perform these tasks.
Duplicated data is expensive, particularly when it comes to cloud storage, but it can also be a compliance risk, because organisations are often unaware of additional copies of data. Data management platforms also often include secure file sharing and access, eliminating the need for yet another third-party solution.
Using the full spectrum of solutions available through a data management platform can save organisations significant sums and add tremendous value by eliminating duplicate data and solutions whilst reducing compliance risk. In addition, data management solutions can perform file optimisation to improve performance.
Unlock the value
Once data is lost, it is too late. Data management, at its core, is about ensuring data is protected and can be recovered in the event of a loss. The reality is that most businesses severely underestimate the impact of an outage in terms of revenue generation ability and the bottom line.
However, actually managing data goes beyond data protection, recovery and backup. Data management can be a strategic asset when applied effectively, reducing expenditure in other areas and delivering business value beyond risk mitigation and compliance.