Every Piece of Data Isn't Equal
CMO Eric Herzog explains how scaling storage can maximize resources while protecting your organization's most valuable asset.
Eric Herzog, CMO, IBM Storage, Image by Jeffrey Peters
By Jennifer Goforth Gregory10/01/2020
The headline from The Economist made a bold statement: “The World’s Most Valuable Resource Is No Longer Oil, but Data.” Every day, businesses of all sizes and industries demonstrate the truth in the headline. While the article compares other valuable resources with data, most notably gold and oil, the value of data isn’t measured by quantity.
Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and vice president of Global Storage Channels, IBM Storage, agrees with The Economist’s declaration.
He believes that a company’s two greatest assets are its data and its employees. Just like employees, each data set brings a different level of value to the company. To make accurate decisions about protecting data (e.g., storage, replication for data recovery and security), businesses need a full understanding of the value of each type of data, which is more challenging than it appears. Without this differentiation, businesses can easily spend too many resources protecting low-value data, sometimes leaving insufficient resources to properly protect high-value data.
While an organization’s most significant assets are its data and its people, the people can’t do their jobs if they don’t have the data they actually need. Without the right data in the right hands at the right time, the business simply cannot function.
An organization must know the business value that the insights from the data provided, as well as the direct cost and liability of losing the data, he explains. For example, losing data containing customer preferences means the business may not create marketing materials that successfully speak to their customers’ pain points—a potentially damaging situation for the company, but not completely debilitating. However, a retail store losing credit data and employees’ social security numbers (SSNs) opens itself to both lawsuits and regulatory fines.
“You have data that could legally end your business if they are stolen, such as credit card numbers and SSNs. But you also have data, such as customer preferences and leads, that could cause the business to go down if it’s not available. Before you make storage and protection decisions, you must know which category each piece falls into and the value level it either provides or could cost the business,” says Herzog.
Ensuring Data Retains Business Value
Many businesses mistakenly assume that the data's existence on the server or the cloud benefits the business. To deliver the data’s value, however, companies must be able to use the data for actionable insights. Organizations must strive to develop infrastructure and processes that ensure data meets the following criteria:
All data exists in some type of storage device, whether it’s a computer, server or cloud. However, businesses can only use that data if they can access it at any time, without downtime or lag. Without that access, the data cannot provide its full value to the business, and it can become a liability to the company if it’s not properly protected.
Your ability to quickly access and use a piece of data directly affects its value to the company. For example, a retailer that accesses logistics data in 30 minutes has a significant advantage, both in terms of ability to get customers products faster and worker productivity, compared to a retailer that takes 30 hours for the same task.
To protect the value of its data, businesses must effectively back up the data to secondary storage, to a cloud or often both. Doing so provides for business continuity in the event of an outage, downtime or breach. Because storing data incurs a direct cost, companies often save space and money by archiving. Additionally, some industries (e.g., healthcare and finance) legally require companies to retain data (archive it) for a set period of time.
When making backup and archive decisions, consider the recovery time objective (RTO), which is the time required to access data for each data set. Many businesses utilize more expensive backup options with a shorter recovery time for high-value data and less expensive options for lower-value data, such as archived data, explains Herzog. Additionally, the resiliency required for potential issues varies, based on likelihood and type of risk, such as an earthquake compared to a ransomware attack.
Meeting these benchmarks is not a one-time event. As business needs and the amount of data collected and stored change, companies must monitor and make modifications as needed.
“Simply put, the right data protection can mean the difference between staying in business and going bankrupt.”
Scalable Data Protection
The need to protect the value of certain data sets in terms of reliability, performance and recoverability changes over time. During annual benefits enrollment periods, employees and the HR department need to access the information quickly, and the infrastructure must handle a high volume of traffic. The data is changed often during this period, so the backup needs to be more frequent and at a higher service level. During the rest of the year, employees access and change the data occasionally, but much less frequently. While the value of the data remains the same, the requirements for access change based on the time of year.
As a company’s data sets have differing levels of value, many turn to scalable data protection to protect their most valuable asset at the appropriate level, which keeps storage more affordable. Herzog says that as your business grows, your data grows, and then your data protection needs to grow accordingly. He also explains that scalable data protection benefits a business because it allows you to protect all of your data. Because properly protecting and backing up data falls under operating expenses (OPEX), businesses must be especially mindful of costs.
“By using a faster, more robust and very large scalable data protection grid, businesses significantly reduce costs from a manpower perspective. However, an application backs up your data and you are your supply chain instead of a database,” he says. “When the process is faster and scalable, you can complete the backup and more effectively optimize the OPEX related to running the application.”
Scaling Protection by Business Value
With IBM Spectrum® Protect Suite, businesses scale their backup infrastructure to meet their business needs, ultimately meaning that downtime doesn’t result in data loss. Herzog says businesses often calculate the purchase price of infrastructure changes but neglect to factor in the changes in operating costs.
Because Spectrum Protect Suite is highly automated, the administrator sets up the backup and the system automatically backs up the data at set intervals (e.g., every two hours, half a day or once a day). Spectrum Protect Suite also helps protect against malware and ransomware attacks, in addition to providing the cyberresiliency and cybersecurity of the storage estate.
Many vendors require a business to purchase a new product each time a need changes, which results in increased costs and business disruptions. Spectrum Protect Suite can store and manage a high number of petabytes using the same product and infrastructure. As your business needs increase or decrease, the solution accommodates your changing needs and automatically scales to keep your data available, performing at a high level and recoverable.
Herzog says that choosing a data storage solution significantly impacts your business and ability to serve your customers. “If your data isn’t protected or available, then the effects to your business can be devastating. Simply put, the right data protection can mean the difference between staying in business and going bankrupt.”
Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a freelance writer.