by Darron Edwards, senior consultant at The MCSA Group
Faced with ever increasing volumes of structured and unstructured data, 2015 will prove more challenging than ever for organisations to effectively backup, store – and when required, retrieve information. So, as data growth outstrips IT budgets, it will be essential that you employ methods that enable a greater understanding of your stored information and its value. This will help you to avoid, not only the costs arising from ineffective backing up, but also data loss and compliance failures.
There remains a mistaken belief across organisations that they must backup all their data. This uninformed, costly approach to data management occurs because organisations don’t know when they may need to retrieve it – or its actual value. A new approach is required to prevent us all disappearing underneath a pile of LTO tapes and disk backup systems.
The key here is to understand your data, classify it and protect it – according to its value if lost. Understanding structured data, typically held in databases, or record systems, isn’t a problem as it’s easier to comprehend and use. The real headache is that most data is now unstructured – including email, social media, images and voice, which is harder to utilise and effectively manage. Organisations need to be in a position to control this unstructured data – whether it’s for compliance, access, recovery, or search.
Try creating an IT policy which provides a complete understanding of all your data sources, its relevance and how it will be captured, stored and accessed. Catalogue your records by business unit to provide an in-depth understanding of the nature, type and location of them. These retention practices will enable users to centrally identify relevant data sources, in a consistent and seamless way.
Armed with this data insight, you can then apply better backup policies. For example, you may question the need to backup all user files after finding out they store personal information, such as music or photos. A policy can be created to move them, exclude them or even delete them. Invest time in getting to know your data assets and what they are worth to you – especially if they are unavailable. Take out the trash and make the backup operator’s life easier.
To protect against data loss, you or your IT provider probably has a backup system that copies all the data on your network. But it’s your responsibility to check whether this system works, so do some house keeping. Establish when was the last time you looked at backup logs to see if all data was copied?
You could try and restore data from the backup to familiarise yourself with the process, this will ensure that the restored data is accurate. Also, establish if you have recently looked at all the drives and shares in your network and matched them with the drives and shares that are being backed up. If you don’t have any backups that are stored outside of your office building, consider some kind of offsite backup solution. It could be as simple as backing up your data on storage devices which you take offsite, or setting up a cloud backup solution.
Also, don’t rely on just having an email backup policy – especially if data must be retained longer-term, for data protection purposes. Backups on their own will not help the retrieval of old emails, as they rarely go back more than 14 days. Play safe, and choose an on-premise or cloud-based email archive solution instead.
So, with the multiple challenges resulting from the exponential growth in data, it’s critical that you understand the nature of your data, evaluate current approaches to data backups and ensure that they are effective, cost efficient and compliant.