The Critical Role of Data Management in Business Resilience
By Kevin Leahy, Director of Data Center Practice at Aspire Technology Partners
In these challenging times brought about by this global health crisis, business resilience has taken on a whole new meaning. In the past, it was mainly focused on a few critical applications, a relatively small percentage of data that was critical to restart or recover the business and all of which was focused on getting back to “how things were” as soon as possible. Business resilience, or business continuity plans, assumed that the world stayed the same during your individual disaster. Whether your business outage was weather-, seismic activity-, or IT infrastructure-related, most business recovery plans focused on recovering good data to a location where critical applications could once again allow everyone to conduct business.
Recent events have changed all that. While the ability for your team and business-critical applications to access and leverage your data is still the goal, most businesses are no longer trying to get back to “what was,” but, rather, to a new place. And while marketing often summarizes this new goal as, “becoming a digital enterprise,” it hardly reflects how dramatic a change your business is experiencing. What we can clearly identify is that the most critical component necessary to navigate these uncharted waters and emerge as a changed business, well-positioned to compete in the new normal, is DATA.
Your business’ ability to survive and thrive depends on making solid, data-driven decisions to set a new direction or chart a new course of action. As this pandemic has demonstrated in many ways, you cannot use history as your guide when there is no historical precedent. You cannot “use your gut” to navigate. What you need is data, as much as you can gather to make informed decisions, and excellent data management. Of course, you also need to be able to execute on those decisions and use data to monitor your success.
Building business resiliency that is based on solid, reliable data requires four things:
- Data Visibility. You must be able to access and review all your data. This requires visibility across your entire data storage infrastructure.
- Data Flexibility. Running your applications in the cloud, on premise, or at the edge means you need to manage storage across your hybrid environment with the performance your workloads require.
- Data Governance. You must have the ability to manage and govern data consistently from the edge to data center and the cloud.
- Data Cost Control. Controlling costs, while ensuring secure access to your data, maximizes the value of your data.
Understanding this is easy but implementing these requirements can be complex. We have learned some keys to successfully managing data in the hybrid cloud world.
Maximizing your data options requires choosing tools and an architecture that allows operations to work with all your data storage and location options in a consistent way. As I noted earlier, good data visibility provides immediate value in most cases. Do not leap to long term data science initiatives and ignore the immediate returns to be realized through improved visibility.
Another item to consider is that data categorization, with defined policies for each data category, is critical. Categorize where you require policy differentiation as much as possible. Starting with policy helps to simplify your operational management. As you develop data policies, remember that your options are bounded by your ability to secure the data. The better your security processes, the more options you can support.
Speed of access to the data is also critical. Business will not wait, and in the digital age, users will not wait either. Fast execution is critical, and the amount of data available to inform that execution is defined by speed. There are many performance options, and in the past IT would often decide to reduce the cost of storage by moving data to a lower performing tier. However, when you consider the value of that data to inform a decision you might make a different storage choice.
There is an operational benefit to an all-flash approach that simplifies ITIL processes like capacity planning, performance management, and configuration management. All flash implementations, in many cases, can relieve constraints from developers to use data for immediate business value. The business value of fast access to data is paramount.
Of course, network performance is also critical to the speed equation. Whether it is all-flash, on premise, or data in the cloud, the network is critical. A data center network upgrade or software defined wide area network (SDWAN) with quality of service (QoS) should be considered to ensure data delivery when and where needed for maximum value.
Consistency is critical enabling you to optimize operational processes and enforce governance with auditability. To that end, driving cloud storage and data management in the same way with the same enterprise attributes can accelerate your efforts.
Cost is always a factor and access to data, particularly in the cloud, can be expensive. Options like cloud volumes can dramatically reduce access costs. In addition, understanding your data’s lifecycle, beginning with immediate use through long term value, helps to provide a roadmap for data movement throughout that lifecycle.
Ultimately data, and your use of it, will define your business future, which means that treating data as an asset, instead of as a cost, is critical. Understanding all those data assets and focusing on those that will be most impactful to the decisions you need to make is your first step in a data-driven recovery.
Aspire Technology Partners is a NetApp Gold Partner and is closely aligned with NetApp’s data driven solutions which help customers achieve digital transformation and IT modernization. As a Gold Partner, Aspire is committed to the continuous refinement of our people skills and expertise in the solution areas of hyperconverged infrastructure, cloud services, flash storage, and data management. The Aspire and NetApp partnership and collaboration allow us to guide customers throughout their digital journey, as they use data at the core, in the edge, in their Data Center or in the Cloud, to innovate platforms and services for their customers, employees, and partners.