A service driven approach to data protection


Corporate data is a business asset.

Many business executives would agree with this and recognise that getting data protection wrong can lead to serious business, financial and operational implications. But many organizations don’t identify critical vulnerabilities in their existing methods until disaster strikes.

Data protection has traditionally simply meant ‘backup and recovery’ which in and of itself, has often been viewed as offering no tangible business value.

But with increased threat levels from external and internal data loss, security breaches and greater demands on compliance and risk management, that view has changed. Also, recent pressure for IT departments to offer more pay-as-you-go utility services using virtualisation and cloud computing techniques is forcing many organisations to think differently about backup & recovery.

We see four common challenges to the traditional backup:

Data Growth – even conservative estimates of 25% structured data grow per annum (with unstructured at over 50%) mean that existing solutions can’t scale and even if they could, budgets just can’t keep pace.

Server Virtualisation – the success of doing more with less has concentrated compute and I/O power into fewer physical resources. This exacerbates the problem of getting data out of the physical platforms in a timely manner.

Cost Pressures – with ongoing reductions in CAPEX and OPEX, IT delivery and operational models have become more efficient but many organisational silos still exist. For example groups responsible for high availability, backup/recovery, archive, disaster recovery, etc. can often still be rationalised.

Complexity of Storage Solutions – the range of technologies and products (e.g. block/SAN, IP/NAS, public/private clouds, deduplication etc.) has left many
customers confused as to how to build out an efficient operating model.

“We are moving to a model where user and corporate datasets and all associated components are protected as a whole and delivered through a utility service.”

Stuart Tarrant – 4sl Founder

The new backup machine – Data Protection as a Service (DPaaS)

Changing the way backup’s been done for years can be a challenge but it’s not necessarily a technical one, it often requires overcoming cultural tensions, politics, and setting proper business goals. Backup systems have been positioned through vendors as products. However, the DPaaS model radically changes the way we should view the relationship with vendors; the service should drive the solution which determines the underlying components, their products and ultimately the supplier.

A well-defined, menu-based set of data protection services that are clearly articulated and communicated throughout the organisation is fundamental to delivering more efficient IT and ultimately utility services.

Although it’s a non-trivial task – defining a formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) governing performance, availability and recovery/response aligned to business requirements along with standardising on backup policies for example – adopting a service management style model for data protection offers significant benefits. It enables the business to determine the service level required which helps identify the infrastructure components, data protection levels and performance characteristics that the solution needs to offer. Also, as with any utility offering, cost is aligned to the service tier and pricing can be identified and offered on a per unit basis.

Putting IT on the front foot

CIOs are increasingly frustrated by infrastructure that lives in silos. Data protection strategies that rely on leading with technologies rather than services are becoming outdated. According to Gartner, by 2015, over two thirds of IT organisations will be delivering some form of IT-as-a-service where self-service, pay-as-you-go transparency and simplified IT are characteristics. With data protection as a service, IT organisations can get on the front foot by reducing complexity, eliminate one-off solutions, minimise stovepipes and present a portfolio of reliable and trusted infrastructure services to support business users and applications.