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Protecting your next-generation storage infrastructure

Fri 30 Sep 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Just as you may be looking to adopt the latest advancements in primary storage technology, now is the right time to also re-evaluate your data protection and backup strategy. Like having insurance or a fire evacuation plan, having a robust data protection strategy - including a solid back-up and recovery system - is a necessity for businesses today.

However, with next-generation storage technology such as flash rapidly accelerating the amount of data that an organisation stores and processes, now is the time to ask whether your data protection strategy can support the flash-centric data center, or whether your current backup and recovery solution is putting you at risk of longer recovery times, missed SLAs, and reduced business performance. 

While it may be tempting to address your current backup and recovery challenges by simply acquiring more storage capacity to “build” a larger data warehouse, the explosive rate and complexity at which data is growing makes this strategy both unviable and unsustainable.

Here are six questions you need to be asking yourself to ensure your company’s strategy is optimised alongside next-generation storage technology:

1.     Do you know where your data protection capacity is ‘living’?

According to IDC, 60 per cent of storage cost is being spent on redundant data[1]. While some companies may choose to overlook this extra burden on their IT resources, the rapid growth of data will make this an unnecessary strain for most organisations if it isn’t already.

By understanding how your storage is being used, and where copies are being stored across the organisation, you will be in a better position to identify areas of redundancy and can deploy deduplication strategies and thin snapshots to reduce overall capacity needs. Ultimately, this will help you make more cost-effective decisions around data and storage growth.

2.     Has a ‘shadow IT infrastructure’ embedded itself in your company?

As technology is increasingly leveraged to drive greater innovation at all levels and functions of a company — particularly around the creation of new revenue streams — the risk of ‘shadow IT infrastructures’ increases. The push to use IT as a competitive differentiator, particularly among developers, has led to multiple teams claiming more resources than needed for their own projects, many times to circumvent the delays that can result from the full corporate approval process.

On the surface, circumventing these processes may appear to speed up time-to-market, but it actually exposes the company to more risks and opens the door to unnecessary duplication or even data loss, since this data is not being stored under the supervision of the IT team.

Companies should work towards providing users with the right tools and processes to reduce complexity and to allow them to seamlessly use IT resources to develop critical applications.

3.     Is your data protection strategy optimised for flash?

The benefits of flash storage are well known and many organisations are already moving to an all-flash data center. But IT decision makers should think beyond this transition as a simple ‘rip and replace’ operation that swaps disc drives or other storage media with flash capacity. You should be looking for flash solutions that are designed to seamlessly integrate with your current backup/recovery and business applications. Modernising your traditional hard disk storage with modern flash architectures is the perfect opportunity to reconsider your data protection approach. For example, you should be looking towards maximising your storage snapshot technologies in ways that integrate with backup devices to reduce overall capacity, speed backup and recovery, simplify management, provide application owners with greater control, and ensure that your business is adequately protected.

4.     Ask yourself: ‘Do I have a Plan B’?

While companies should take all the necessary steps to ensure that their ‘Plan A’ storage infrastructure is as reliable and resilient as possible, failures can and do happen. You need a comprehensive and realistic discussion around disaster recovery plans, and to ensure that these plans are updated on a regular basis—particularly as you are making changes to your infrastructure. This periodic review typically involves creating operational procedures and adopting the right set of technologies to minimise the impact and time needed to recover from disasters.

5.     Is your backup storage cost-efficient?

It may be tempting to opt for the cheapest backup storage medium, but the journey to create the most cost-efficient storage infrastructure for your organisation is a far more nuanced one. It is never a case of “one-technology-fits-all”.

Companies should balance performance requirements with cost-appropriate mediums based on the types of workloads being performed. Of course, with an infrastructure that uses various storage systems, companies need to ensure that the architecture employed is able to seamlessly integrate these various components.

6.     Is your data protection strategy future-proof?

With technology advancements and ever-changing business demands, companies need to have the agility to not only scale their resources, but to also integrate new technology.

A key consideration you need to make when evaluating your data protection strategy is to ensure that your IT architecture is future-proofed – allowing you to seamlessly upgrade to technologies like flash without compromising the business or requiring additional resources to maintain data protection standards.

Finding an integrated solution

Ultimately, companies who are looking at modernising their overall IT infrastructure cannot afford to take a relaxed view of their data protection strategy. While developing proper IT policies are critical, companies should also work toward adopting a backup solution that offers the following key features:

  • Scale-out architecture – allowing your company to pay as you grow, with the ability to add virtual capacity, shelves or nodes
  • Ability to provide deduplication across the enterprise – this will simplify backup management and optimise available storage in large environments
  • Automated, efficient backup and disaster recovery operations that run from a single view – this will reduce complexity, prevent outages, and reduce the time needed to get your business back up and running should an outage occur
  • Application-aware consistency – corrupt data copies are of little use when recovery is needed and time is of the essence. Ensure that the integration between your primary and protection storage is application-consistent to ensure consistency and data integrity

Article by Paul Shaw, general manager of Storage for Hewlett Packard Enterprise South Pacific

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