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Juggling your data storage? How to balance your storage needs without dropping the ball

Tue 17 Dec 2019 | Krishna Subramanian

Data Storage

Data continues to grow at a rapid rate, showing no signs of slowing down. All of this information must be stored, managed and analysed presenting key challenges for businesses. Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, explores the approaches to data management

The reality of data growth is staggering. As more technology is being created and areas such as IoT are expanding rapidly, the amount of data that is being produced is increasing exponentially. IDC predicts that the Global Datasphere will grow from 33 Zettabytes (ZB) in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025.  All of this data needs to be stored, managed and analysed. This is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses across every industry, particularly with the amount of unstructured data growing, as they look to adopt the most efficient yet cost-effective solution that can help their IT teams to keep on track.

Many businesses are also looking to consolidate their data across all of their storage systems, but this is a tricky process to get right – there’s never a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, so teams need a simple way to manage data across multiple solutions.

The confusion of consolidation

Consolidating all of the data within a business is necessary if it is going to reduce costs and maximise the use of its storage, but it’s a difficult job. Why?

From a technical standpoint, challenges arise because data storage is often driven by several different initiatives. Since there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for storage, businesses typically rely on several different storage solutions that manage data at different performance and cost tiers. Some of these will be expensive solutions that handle the everyday, active or ‘hot’ data that employees are using constantly. Others will be more basic storage options that store ‘cold’ data which isn’t used often. Because of these contrasting workloads, consolidating the data across these is tough to manage.

Additionally, aside from the technical challenges, there are also problems caused by both organisational and financial aspects. Companies are now becoming more distributed than ever before, so managing the data across these different locations is presenting a new obstacle. Although cloud seems like the most suitable answer, it is not always a feasible option for every organisation. Therefore, physical storage must continue. There is also the increasing issue of having control over your data – different departments or sections of a business may have different rules about accessing and storing data, so being able to manage these effectively without any mix-ups is a must.

Why data-centric is the #1 choice

This is where a strategic approach to data management comes in, with a particular focus on unstructured data. Often, rising storage and backup costs are not because of the storage – they are a result of poor data management. To help alleviate this problem, there are four key steps that should be followed in every storage solution for businesses to ensure that they can get the best use out of their data:

  1. Data discovery and collection – teams need a mechanism to collect all of the data
  2. Catalogue/index – once an index is created, from here teams can search across all data held by the organisation
  3. Analysis – teams can study the data to pull the required conclusions
  4. Actions – the necessary actions can be taken as a result of the analysis

The ability to implement security and threat management is very important within step four, as this is the stage where the knowledge gained from the analysis can be used to provide a beneficial outcome for the business. For example, any areas that are vulnerable to cyber threats can be identified and a security solution can be found and implemented. Additionally, by introducing data augmentation into this process, IT teams can improve the quality of the data itself – for example, image recognition can add additional tags to data that can help employees to find the exact files they are looking for, quicker.

Customers will always want more visibility when it comes to their own data. They want to get the most value out of it, but how can they get this regardless of where their data is being stored? Having a data-centric approach that is storage-agnostic – as opposed to other approaches such as data protection-based – is the best solution that businesses can adopt. In doing so, they can get visibility first and then increase efficiency and ROI, and in turn unlock the value of their data.

How does a data-centric approach vary compared to other approaches?

One of the main reasons that a data-centric approach could be an ideal solution for your business is because it’s very easy to adopt. It is comprised of a single system that works across a multi-vendor storage environment, which is becoming increasingly common across many businesses. It is also standards-based – it works specifically for the systems that are currently in place, so it can be tailored to any customer.

A data-centric approach is typically quick to produce ROI (Return on Investment) and overall has a low TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), making it a strong favourite for many business leaders when considering the most cost-effective solution for their company. This is because this approach enables teams to know before they act – they don’t have to buy expensive storage or backups before they can understand their own data. A data-centric approach starts with analytics; it shows what data a business has, how much is cold, how to be more efficient, and enables teams to plan the right mix of storage and backups before buying them.

Also, because a data-centric approach is independent of any particular storage or backup vendor, it does not lock you into a limited choice. By providing visibility before having to make expensive investments, and by enabling choice in a business’ options, a data-centric approach maximises TCO and ROI. In the long-term, this approach works well for smaller businesses but can also be scaled up easily as a business grows over time, meaning there’s no need to worry about outgrowing the solution. It has minimal impact on the existing infrastructure and doesn’t disrupt the current storage, user access or backup processes.

In contrast, different approaches over the years have not always been able to produce the same level of results as the data-centric approach. For example, a data-protection based solution – that collects data through backups – can be problematic because it requires investment in a backup infrastructure which can be costly and complex before it can generate any results. Where a data-centric approach can be added to the existing systems, a data-protection based approach may require ripping out the old and replacing with the new. Therefore, this is unlikely to be the most cost-effective option as replacing an entire infrastructure could prove costly. It can also be challenging because doing data management after a backup with unstructured data is often not possible – the data is already broken into blocks and pooled in together, so any data movement would require the backup system to return the data to the original state, which eliminates the savings.

There are many different options out there for businesses to choose when it comes to data management – in today’s digital age it is one of the most pressing issues that IT teams are up against. To see the greatest benefits from data management, IT leaders should consider what their existing infrastructure looks like, and recognise how a data-centric approach can save time and money by adapting to this environment and providing a simple way to coordinate the valuable data that ensures the best possible service is delivered for customers.

Photo credit – freepik

Experts featured:

Krishna Subramanian

COO
Komprise

Tags:

data storage data-centric approach
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