“Every company is a tech company.” This saying has been thrown around a lot lately with the rise of big data, but it’s true. Companies of all sizes, from mom-and-pop stores to growing enterprises, government agencies, social enterprises and nonprofits, are facing the new reality of compiling and protecting data as well as figuring out how to safely and securely store it in a way that’s economical and complies with applicable laws. It’s become so universally important that we now have the annual “World Backup Day” on March 31. The options can certainly be overwhelming, but the effort to safely store and manage data won’t go unnoticed if the planning process accounts for certain considerations, such as understanding how best to tier data and where to store it on the basis of how “active” it is, how to avoid data duplication and also compress data effectively to reduce storage capacity and costs, and how to combat ubiquitous ransom ware threats. Spending some time today could save a lot of trouble, including the stoppage or outright failure of the business.
Below are four steps that small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) can take for better data-storage management.
Take an Active Approach to Ransom-ware
Think how critical a company’s computing environment is to the business, including external systems. For instance, consider e-commerce systems and internal systems, such as a customer’s credit-card information in a prospect database and inventory system. Now, imagine no longer having access to any of them. Think it’s impossible? It happens to U.S. businesses four thousand times every day, according to the FBI Cyber Crime Unit. This number is growing exponentially. In addition, the attacks are becoming increasingly aggressive and sophisticated; they can encrypt all data backups—assuming the absence of a disciplined approach to keeping the backup data separate and inaccessible.
Ransom-ware, an especially dangerous form of malware, is a top concern for businesses, as it’s not a matter of if an attack will occur, but when. Recently, WikiLeaks shared thousands of documents from the CIA. If this case proves anything, it’s that companies of all sizes can be hacked.
To combat ransom-ware, SMBs must be vigilant and have a strong recovery strategy, as well as the proper solutions to make sure operations quickly return to normal after an attack. A fast recovery minimizes loss of productivity, uptime and money. An effective and preventive approach includes pairing existing cybersecurity solutions with storage systems that enable SMBs to go back to the seconds before an attack and clear the data of any damage.
Adopt Storage Tiering for Better Economics and Storage
As solid-state drives (SSDs) continue to become cheaper and more available, businesses are rightly weighing their performance and cost efficiency against those of spinning disks (HDDs). Few, however, have the need—and, regardless of size, the money—to run all of their workloads on SSDs, regardless of the economics. To find the proper balance, SMBs can consider adopting hybrid solutions for storage tiering. These solutions allow SMBs to optimize the availability of their data and cost of their data storage. “Hot” (frequently accessed) data resides in SSDs, ensuring very fast access; less-critical data resides on traditional HDDs, which are less expensive. Tiering to the cloud is the next logical step in a multitier data-storage strategy.
Use Hybrid IT to Move to the Cloud
Hybrid IT, where some IT resources are maintained in house and others in the cloud, offers the best of both worlds for IT managers that need fast data access but may want to avoid paying for the on premise option. SMBs may find it the “best of both worlds,” as it not only retains control of data (when you want it, it’s there) but also is more cost effective than on-premises alternatives. Hybrid IT also allows the IT department to respond quickly to rapidly changing business needs.
In today’s digital economy, SMBs clearly need a mix of on-premises IT, public cloud and private cloud to remain competitive. In fact, IDG’s recent Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey 2016 predicts that by 2018, the typical IT department will have less than half of their apps and platforms residing on premises. Small and medium-size businesses can adopt hybrid IT to seamlessly manage data on site and virtually.
Adopt Data Deduplication and Compression for Better Economics and Storage
The amount of stored data is growing at hyper-exponential rates. With the increasing use of images, video and so on, the amount stored in the past three years is greater than the amount from the entire history of man up to that time —and it shows no sign of slowing. The number of redundant files is yet another reason for this mind-bending statistic. Following the principle of “less is more,” storage systems should provide in-line data deduplication and compression that can increase overall system performance by reducing the need for storage capacity by a factor of four to five.
Just by following these four tips, SMBs can be one step ahead of the competition as well as outside (and inside) threats. They can also reassure customers that they’re operating in accordance with today’s reality in addition to being prepared for what’s next.