With the accelerated uptake of many different cloud-based solutions, from Software as a Service (SaaS) through to platforms and infrastructure, the cloud has fast become part of many organisations’ daily business. Often, what this means is that businesses are making use of multiple clouds across public, private and hybrid scenarios. While using the right cloud for the right purpose is important, multiple clouds present a significant challenge when it comes to managing and safeguarding data. Organisations need a single view of data across traditional IT as well as private and public cloud solutions. A formal cloud strategy and the right tools for the job are critical in the effective management of data across multiple clouds.
The issue of ‘shadow IT’
The prevalence of cloud-based solutions along with benefits such as lower pricing and increased agility has made these solutions incredibly easy to adopt and to adapt to business requirements. The cloud has become an extension of traditional IT. However, this ease of adoption is also a challenge for IT, since often, individual departments will procure their own solutions outside of the traditional IT process.
This ‘shadow IT’ phenomenon typically results in a lack of centralised control over data, and the challenge here is that if a particular cloud service experiences an outage, any data that makes use of this service is put at risk. In many instances, the realisation that this data still needs to be managed and protected only occurs when it is too late. Data has become increasingly dispersed, and the issue will only increase with the accelerated uptake of the cloud, and as more and more devices come online with the Internet of Things (IoT).
Gaining control over IT solutions and all business data is critical to ensuring maximum uptime and availability as well as effective backup and disaster recovery, among other things. It is important to centralise the management of data and enforce consistent polices across all of the various clouds in use to address security and data challenges.
A formal cloud strategy and the right management tools are key
Arguably the most significant benefit of the cloud is the ability to deliver improved agility and facilitate innovation at a reduced cost to traditional IT. However, while using the right cloud for the right workload is central to achieving this, the tapestry of various infrastructures and clouds often results in fragmented data, making management difficult and security complex. Lack of formal cloud strategy with regard to moving data into the cloud and managing it once it is there only adding to its complexity.
For example, many cloud storage providers offer different tiers of storage, and it is important to ensure that the appropriate tier is used for the different types of data being stored. In addition, organisations need to make sure that they utilise technology such as deduplication, compression and encryption. This is critical to maximise availability and cost effectiveness as well as ensure appropriate security levels for various types of data.
Improving business efficiency requires accessible, available data
Improving business efficiency is often the primary reason for a move into the cloud, and ultimately the goal of IT in general is to make businesses more efficient. In order to achieve this, it is essential to ensure that data is accessible and available to the people who need it, when they need it. One of the issues with fragmented data environments such as those created by multiple clouds is that it can take additional time to get hold of the data required, which prevents businesses from leveraging agile analytics and can slow decision making ability. In addition to this challenge, if an organisation cannot find the data it needs it can also be vulnerable to risk in respect of data protection and privacy legislation, as well as eDiscovery.
Delivering on data availability is an essential part of a cloud strategy. Information is the key word in IT, not technology, which is simply an enabler, and information should always come first. The quicker users can access the information they require, and the more that data can be secured, backed up and given fault tolerance, the better off an organisation will be. The cloud can make businesses more agile and competitive, enable visualisation of data and drive insight like never before, however, in order to achieve this the right tools are needed to manage and maintain data, understand where it is and how it is being used, and where and how the cloud is being utilised.
The ability to use data in an agile state is a key cloud benefit. Tools need to be upgraded for the 21st century when making use of multiple clouds. This is essential to ensure IT has the necessary level of control over users, while still giving them the flexibility they require and 100% of the data they need, when they need it.
A comprehensive data management platform
The cloud paints an interesting and complex picture for business. Leveraging its benefits requires organisations to be smart, follow best practices and make use of best of breed tools to assist. Data firstly needs to be moved into the cloud that makes the most sense for the application and workload, and then it must be de-duplicated, compressed to ensure the smallest possible footprint, and encrypted for security reasons. It is also important to manage storage tiers within the cloud, similarly to on premises, to ensure the right levels of storage for the right types of data.
The key to managing data is to understand it. Making use of a platform that integrates across public and private cloud, as well as traditional IT infrastructure, can provide the interface to deliver native access to information wherever it is stored. In addition, it can deliver a dynamic and instantaneous index of how data is distributed, which allows data to be accessed, utilised, promoted and delivered to allow for a number of benefits. These include faster development operations and data discovery, improved reporting and analytics and more. All of this is driven through a platform that integrates with the different levels of data storage within cloud providers and traditional data centres, and provides the necessary levels of management orchestration.
The ability to move, manage and make use of data, regardless of where it resides, hinges off knowing what data you are using and where your data lives. Only once this is known and understood, can strategy be effectively enacted.
By Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT