Too cheap, too easy, too much – The untold cost of data and its complexity
Thu 6 Aug 2020 | Andrew Fitzgerald
How to improve the cost of ownership of data and keep it manageable in an era of cheap and easy storage, by Andrew Fitzgerald sales director for Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa
Statistics and data are everywhere. We are awash with numbers that hype and promote discussion and grab attention. There is really no need for mind-boggling concepts or numbers.
We know there’s a lot of data being generated, that it’s growing, growing fast, and needs to be stored somewhere. We also know that ‘somewhere’ doesn’t necessarily mean the data centre but the Cloud where data can be stored on-demand, at minimal cost and in seemingly endless quantities, or at the edge where data is now being collected.
We have data in abundance, but insights? Not so much.
So, while data storage is fast becoming a ubiquitous, easily sourced and financially devalued consumable, it isn’t becoming any easier to manage or use for a productive business benefit. Quite the opposite, with few companies equipped to deal with the sheer volume of data they find themselves facing or its diversity. Having vast volumes of data doesn’t equate to having answers.
Many IT decision-makers are struggling to cope, so here are our top tips to help IT teams manage, secure and take full advantage of their data in this era of deceptively cheap and easy storage:-
Tip 1 – Doing nothing isn’t an option
Just because your IT appears to be working doesn’t mean it isn’t broken. The more diverse the underlying technology, the higher the risk of data silos, multiple copies of mission-critical files (each slightly different), obsolete data stores and other storage-related problems. Sure, these may not be painful issues right now, but that can change and all too quickly.
When it comes to taking action, smaller companies may get away by using bundled management tools to manage and stay on top of data issues. In larger organisations, with multiple data platforms, however, they can make them worse.
The best approach here is a consolidated solution able to identify, deduplicate and protect data across all available platforms and technologies. Legacy solutions revolve around managing infrastructure components and are comprised of multiple point elements, leading to data fragmentation across silos. As a result, managing data and its recovery is not only hard—it’s expensive.
Tip 2 – Knowledge is power
Ask any CIO/CTO how much data they have, where it is and what it costs and, no matter how authoritative the answer, it’s likely to be a guess. All the more so when the Cloud is involved, especially in multi-cloud environments.
Wind back to when data was locked away in the data centre, and this wasn’t a big problem (you could always count the number of disks!) Nowadays, however, it is.
Put plainly, how can you possibly know your data is secure or that you’re getting value for money if you don’t know where it is, how much you have or what you’re paying for it?
Knowing your data footprint, what you’ve got, where it is, who has access to it is not just a compliance must, but a critical first step to delivering a meaningful data management plan. Miss it out, and you might just as well not bother.
Tip 3 – Never underestimate the challenge of scale
Do not assume that managing data will be easy. It isn’t and the more you have the harder it gets, so the earlier you can apply controls the better. That means being able to apply consistent management policies and controls at the point where data is collected/created to limit data sprawl, the accumulation of unnecessary copies and (the big ‘no-no’) isolated silos.
But, it doesn’t end there. Look also for integration tools and technologies to democratise access and make data available to applications no matter where or how or where it’s stored.
And lastly, never underestimate the need for automation, both in order to handle the volumes involved and minimise the risk of human error. That means everything from simple scripting through to the application of machine learning and AI to more complex data management tasks.
Tip 4 – Take nothing for granted
Because of its ready abundance it’s tempting to treat the Cloud as though it were an inexhaustible resource. Worse still, there’s a tendency to assume that, should anything go wrong, the Cloud will somehow be magically healed and any data stored in it untouched.
That’s a very naïve way of thinking. The Cloud is highly resilient, but not infallible or any more secure than any other platform. Files in the Cloud, for example, can still be accidentally modified, damaged or deleted and, equally, targeted by hackers and malware. Cloud storage is not a backup strategy.
Data security can’t simply be left to service providers. Customers need to take responsibility for data in the Cloud themselves, just as they would for on-premise storage.
And there is a shared responsibility model that ensures both parties know where their responsibilities start and stop. That includes Cloud storage in a comprehensive data backup and security regime with the same need for multiple backups on different media, for example, and well-practiced procedures to provide for fast recovery as and when required.
Tip 5 – The true cost of data
Money talks. Your investments need to be shrewd and deliver a return or at least not prove excessively costly. By definition, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is the purchase price of an asset plus the costs of operation.
Assessing TCO represents taking a broader look at what problem we’re solving, the solution, and the solution’s efficacy over time. Buyers need to look beyond the short-term price, or purchase price, and understand the long-term cost.
In other words, conversations revolving around TCO reduction need to factor in the core element of TCO analysis: the effectiveness of a solution in addressing the most impactful requirements. How do the solutions you use stack up?
A solution that supports TCO reduction initiatives is one that reduces silos and addresses fundamental pain points that users face. This is how you optimise your TCO efficacy: solve user needs while thwarting complexity.
Storage may be cheap and easy to acquire but don’t fall into the trap of taking it for granted. Simplicity is directly responsible for reducing costs and the time needed for management. Simplicity is tangible. Data is a valuable resource and no less business-critical whether stored in the Cloud or locked away in the data centre – focus on decreasing your management time and your data footprint and reap the benefits.