Turning data overload into business strength

Faster and more efficient data storage is a top priority for organisations. Data pressure is ramping up and it's time to get prepared.

Faster and more efficient data storage is becoming a priority for organisations in Australia and across the Asia Pacific as the explosion in information pushes existing systems to bursting point. While data pressures here have yet to reach the same intensity as in North America, industry forecasts indicate enterprises only have a small window to prepare.

According to Gartner, requirements for external storage in Asia Pacific will increase by a compound annual growth rate of 57 per cent over the next four years. This is more than double the rate being experienced in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (27 per cent), and nearly twice that of the Americas (33 per cent). In fact, raw data in Asia Pacific will top 31 million terabytes by 2017 -- 13 times more than the amount that existed just three years ago.

Such overwhelming amounts of information are fundamentally changing the way organisations do business, presenting major challenges for back-up and recovery.

One of the biggest drivers of data growth is the widespread adoption of mobile devices, with more people in Australia now using smartphones and tablets than almost anywhere else in the world. Many businesses have introduced Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies that allow staff to use their mobiles and tablets for work. For IT managers, this adds extra layers of complexity, with organisations facing the prospect of managing a huge range of device types and data formats.

Ageing storage a serious risk

Recent natural disasters in countries such as Japan and the Philippines have highlighted the importance of having robust back-up and recovery systems in place. It is not only tsunamis and typhoons that pose a threat -- any event that causes a serious slowdown or outage must be properly managed, with critical business information to be protected and made available as soon as possible.

Get this wrong and the consequences are potentially massive and business-threatening. According to Gartner, the losses amount to an average $US5600 for every minute of unplanned downtime.

To avoid these losses and reduce the overall risk to their businesses, organisations need to review their storage systems, assessing the following areas:

Storage architecture: Look at both the current and future needs of the business to ensure that any infrastructure investment drives innovation and supports growth across the organisation.

Server virtualisation: Legacy storage is the most common reason for under-performance in virtual environments, as it cannot cope with unpredictable, multi-tenant and highly random virtual workloads.

Data protection and recovery: Backup restore times should be tested to ensure they are within service level agreement expectations.

Flash-based storage: Examine opportunities for flash-based storage to improve the performance and efficiency of key business applications.

Wasted capacity: Most legacy storage systems are guilty of massive wasted capacity with an average 50 per cent more volume allocated than required. Such inefficient data utilisation creates additional costs with the unused infrastructure difficult to reclaim.

Tape is still in the mix

Efficiency and flexibility need to be the priorities when organisations consider transitioning from a traditional monolithic storage solution to a modern alternative. Organisations should consider a converged approach that can be scaled with the business to address all storage needs from backup and retention to recovery and archiving under a common management interface.

Across Australia, tape remains the most common form of storage for backup and recovery, but it is a technology that was never designed to cope with the high volumes of data being created today.

However, that does not mean tape is dead -- far from it. While disk-to-disk with de-duplication for eliminating replicated data is the recommended approach for primary backup, tape is still an important secondary or tertiary backup tier.

New technologies, such as Linear Tape File System, enable solutions that look and feel like disk and allow very easy and simple archive platforms. Although unable to perform at the same level as disk-to-disk in a major outage, tape is still an effective line of defence.

When looking at storage options, businesses should make sure that the preferred solution is future-proof, scalable, and has the ability to restore data in line with business expectations.

Benefits of converging

A converged storage approach ensures that the business is fully protected, should the worst case scenario occur.

Collapsing multiple storage silos into a streamlined system will result in a vastly improved return on investment for information, infrastructure and staffing. Using an industry standardised system is more cost effective, as it can be easily expanded to accommodate growing data levels.

The simplicity of the approach means less training is required and organisations have more time to focus on business operations as opposed to management and maintenance. Modern storage infrastructure also allows the enterprise to realise the full benefits of virtual projects, leading to yet more cost savings and improved efficiency. Organisations will also benefit from faster and enhanced levels of information analytics to support business decision-making.

Turning data overload into business strength

The scale and complexity of the current mobile-driven data explosion is set to overwhelm traditional storage systems and seriously compromise efficient backup and recovery. Organisations must evolve into a position to continue business operations with minimal interruption if disaster strikes.

By tackling storage concerns now, organisations in Australia will be able to better manage their data and optimise growth, while ensuring that essential information is protected and secure. With a converged storage solution, they can turn the data challenge into a business advantage.

Steve Kelly is country general manager, storage, enterprise group, HP South Pacific