When it comes to enterprise IT backup and storage, there's a lot on the line for your customers, your employees and your business to protect your critical data assets.
From doing a detailed beginning-of-the-year review of your backup and storage environments to ensuring you have backups not only in-house but in safe, remote locations where they can be quickly and reliably restored in a flash, there are plenty of important tasks for IT pros to check off in their company's technology systems as 2018 approaches.
To help enterprises get a ready for the New Year, ITPro asked several IT analysts to share their top 2018 resolutions for backup and storage to give IT pros some helpful advice for keeping their company's IT infrastructure running smoothly.
"If storage pros are looking for a fresh start, I'd suggest they begin by assessing the storage and backup tools and services they're currently using and determine whether they're gaining hoped-for benefits," says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
One example is to review the cloud-based storage your company is using to ensure you aren't spending more money and saving more data than necessary, he says. "Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other cloud providers offer 'cold' storage services for long-term data retention requirements, but if an organization uses that service without properly managing the information it's socking away, it can come to resemble a hoarder who keeps stuffing junk in self-storage facilities and paying the monthly freight."
That's worth reviewing annually, he says. "Just because a service's cost/benefits were excellent last year doesn't mean it'll be the same in 2018."
Mark Peters, a storage analyst at Enterprise Security Group, says he recommends improving your organizational effectiveness by better integrating all necessary lines of business so they each better understand their data storage needs. That can help enterprises draw a more direct line between the IT infrastructure and the business, he says.
Peters also recommends taking a detailed look at your storage environment "to look at what is genuinely needed versus what 'seemed like a good idea,' the flavor of the moment or an easy option in the past."
For IT pros, "understanding that the room for economic and operational improvement in data storage and management is invariably significant," he says. Also important is ensuring that you involve all willing application owners inside the business in your decision-making processes when it comes to making choices about storage platforms, he adds.
Being dynamic and pragmatic about your backup and storage systems in the coming year is also important. To accomplish that, Peters recommends staying educated and up-to-date on the latest and emerging storage approaches so you can evaluate them quickly to determine if and how they can help your business IT operations more broadly.
"Only by being cognizant of the real capabilities, 'gotchas' and applicability of such things as cloud, hyper-converged storage (HCI), software-defined storage (SDS), NVM Express (NVMe) and more can [IT pros] hope to optimize the environment they manage and the service and value it provides," says Peters.
Get Your Data out of the Building
Data protection analyst Jason Buffington of Enterprise Security Group says his number one recommended resolution for 2018 is to get your data out of your building even before your latest backup and recovery plans are finalized.
"One of the biggest challenges enterprises have when they start think about disaster recovery and continuity is they spend so much time working on the process and the documentation and the plans without putting any execution in until the plan is done," says Buffington. The problem with that strategy is that "the plan is never done" and is always prime for updates and tweaks, he said.
"If you at least get your data out of your building, you can be ready to get running again" if disaster strikes as you are working to create or update your overall backup and recovery plans, he says. "If you wait until the plan is done, you have nothing. [This way you can] make sure you will survive a problem and figure out the rest of the plan later."
The cloud can help large and small businesses with this task, he says, through its natural capabilities to serve as a repository for backups, archiving and business continuity disaster recovery, says Buffington.
It's also important to remember and recognize in 2018 that organizations have data in more places than they think, and all of it needs to have the same governance while conducting backup and archiving. "Most organizations are used to simply thinking about the servers that are within their data systems," says Buffington. "That’s fine, but don't forget your data in Office 365, Dropbox, branch offices and even endpoints including laptops and other mobile devices, wherever your data lives."
Regulations are Your Friend
Complying with government regulations is often seen as a hassle by enterprises, but those regulations should instead be viewed as your friend, says Buffington.
"Most regulations that affect IT define behaviors that frankly you should have been doing anyway," such as archiving, assuring data privacy and implementing similar protections, he says. "What the regulations do is they force executives to reconsider their liability and because the regulations have a start date, it forces a decision. So now funding appears where there wasn't funding before" to make it happen, even if budgetary issues care holding up other projects.
Conduct a 'Data Census'
As the new year approaches, another great resolution for your IT department's backup and storage strategy is to conduct a census of all data inside your company so you can get to know what you have, says Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.
"Find out how much you have and what data is 'active.' meaning it's currently used and needs to be placed on high performance storage hardware," says Olds. "For some companies, the amount of active data is 20 percent, while for others it could be significantly higher or lower. This is your mission-critical data and needs to have fast access and be highly available."
Always be sure your most valuable and important data is on your best storage hardware and is highly protected, he says.
IT staff should also check out some of the latest automatic replication software on the market to ease and automate some of their critical backup tasks, he says. "This software automatically saves your most important data, right after it's written, to several different physical locations. It's a great way to protect your most important data and provides a disaster recovery solution as well."
And don't forget to start the year by taking the plunge and doing a full test of your disaster recovery mechanisms, says Olds. "This can be scary, but it's very important. If being able to recover from a disaster is important to you, then you must test your disaster recovery mechanisms" to ensure they work as designed when needed.
As 2018 approaches, getting your New Year's IT backup and storage tasks lined up and scheduled for review and completion can help you jump into the year with a clear mission and achievable goals. And that's never a bad way to start a new year.