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Wednesday, 10 February 2021 14:46

2020 was the year from hell. What will happen with data storage as we escape into 2021? Featured

2020 was the year from hell. What will happen with data storage as we escape into 2021? Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Here we look at the future of data storage post COVID. Where are the wins? Where are the landmines?

In this the next of a multi-part report we ask a number of industry executives how data storage will fare with the changes wrought by the virus. A couple of these executives provided their thoughts.

This is the question we posed: "Having endured the weirdest year any of us could have imagined, what will be different in 2021?"

Leo Lynch, Director, Asia Pacific, StorageCraft tells us that "COVID-19 will change the data-management paradigm for years to come."

He continues, "Security, backup, and recovery across remote locations have long been a significant challenge for organisations. Of course, this was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and remote working because data is now further distributed and has compounded vulnerabilities.

"The reality is that we won't be going back to the office anytime soon. What's more, many companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Dropbox have announced that their employees can permanently work from home, even after a widely adopted vaccine.

"As a result, companies need to manage and protect data at these edge locations effectively. Specifically, they will need to put greater emphasis on simple-to-implement, low-cost, cloud-based solutions that can effectively back up and protect data in remote environments."

Lynch continues by noting that " 'Zoomification' will put an unexpected strain on storage capacity.

"In the COVID-19 era, companies are generating more data than ever. Just think about all the Zoom calls that are now being recorded, shared, and ultimately stored. Many organisations don't yet realize that video storage costs can run into millions of dollars annually. They will soon face a wake-up call as they outgrow their existing storage space and scramble to meet far greater data-storage requirements.

"The same is true for educational and healthcare institutions. For instance, schools are dealing with exponential growth in the amount of data they handle as students and teachers increasingly embrace digital content, cloud services, and online apps. Meanwhile, the rise of telemedicine and the need to access, store, and protect patient data is putting added pressure on health systems across the globe.

"The long-term impact of COVID-19 will be a perfect storm of video sprawl and runaway storage costs. Cloud storage costs that start at a few hundred dollars a month may well balloon to a few hundred thousand dollars annually in the course of a few short years. To succeed in this data-intensive reality, organisations need an efficient and affordable way to expand their storage needs while improving their data backup and recovery."

Jeff Park, ANZ Country Manager, Seagate adds that "Not only is data creation exploding, but the amount of that data that is useful is growing as well. Even archived data is being resurrected because advances related to AI/Machine Learning are allowing users to mine additional information from once archived data. Enterprise leaders must be prepared to store more data than ever to train models, for mining of critical information, and for archiving data given that its useful life is likely extending.

"Formative AI is a means through which data becomes more insightful. Formative AI relates to the tiering trend since it depends on having a flexible architecture that can react to changes intelligently. The advantages are speed (since the data is moved to your fast tier automatically) and cost (since you can store on inexpensive disk in an easy to access format until you need the data)."

Lynch continues, "A new scale-out approach to storage will be essential. Such a system will enable organisations to purchase storage upfront at a reasonable price and then scale-out that storage cost-effectively over time."

Of course we can't just see data in isolation - it is but one part of an enormous ecosystem and protection of that ecosystem is vital.

Lynch explains: "For years, the famous security maxim was 'trust but verify.' But now organisations embrace a zero-trust approach to security. They entirely remove trust from the equation and assume that everything—including users, endpoints, networks, and resources—is untrusted and must be verified. Only minimum permissions are granted at just the right time to get a job done, and then those permissions are revoked immediately after completing the assignment or transaction.

"A similar approach will soon be embraced when it comes to data protection. Indeed, a new study by Enterprise Management Associates revealed that, given the rise of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, 60% of IT buyers have fast-tracked their deployment of zero-trust policies and technology over the last seven months.

"Take, for instance, an employee who is requesting to have data recovered from their laptop. What are the real-time credentials certifying that this particular employee can restore a specific machine? What permissions were contained in the backup image, and do those permissions need to be changed to reflect current requirements? If IT is restoring a machine that was set up a month ago, who is ensuring that no one else has access to that machine?"

Further, there will be a growing application of AI and ML to the data being collected. So, not only do we need to keep everything, but we need to access it quickly and intelligently.

Park makes this clear: "Because future insights and advancements in machine learning are challenging to predict, businesses today should start saving as much of their data as they possibly can to ensure that any and all future analyses can be done with the best possible training data."

"Organisations large and small are now collecting massive amounts of machine learning and IoT data," says Lynch. "For instance, think about all the data Tesla is currently collecting from its hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road as part of its effort to deliver real autonomous driving. Many companies are now doing the same, collecting and analysing oceans of data.

"But here's the burning question: If your company depends on collecting and analysing data to operate and succeed, what happens if that data is not fully backed up and easily recoverable? What happens if you lose any of that data? For a company like Tesla, any issues with data could result in inaccurate algorithm engines and off-kilter heuristics that could potentially put lives at risk.

"Most companies are thinking mainly about data analysis and much less about data backup or security. But as data increasingly moves from analysis to production environments, that's when protection becomes critical. Cutting-edge storage tools increasingly rely on AI and machine learning to automate the data backup process.

"Given the exploding size of enterprise data, these intelligent tools will become vital for maintaining an efficient backup process that can quickly and effortlessly react to changing requirements while saving untold hours on manual backups."

As always, society runs on data - we need to be conscious of that and make sure it is well protected.

There will be further instalments in this series, focussing on Cloud, on AI/ML and on IT security in particular. Stay tuned.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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