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Being ‘good with money’ cuts right across every demographic. It is the pecuniary equivalent of being a cat person or a dog person; you are either one or the other, and only occasionally somewhere in the middle.

Being ‘good with data’ doesn’t hold quite the same cachet, particularly among successful businesspeople. Knowing your ‘bare metal recovery’ from your ‘backup window’ might win you admiring glances from your IT manager, but generations of shareholders have always prized financial mastery far higher.

I think that’s changing. As consumers and organisations continue their digital evolution, boardroom leaders are narrowing the discrepancy to treat data with more of the respect it deserves. Drivers for this change include:

*The fear of regulatory compliance failure and its associated penalties *Acknowledging the value of data in the eyes of cybercriminals and other malicious parties, and the potential impact of data loss on the business *Real and perceived opportunities around harnessing big data to improve decision making *Objectives around competitive differentiation, increased productivity and superior business agility brought about by better use of data

How to fulfil these objectives and strategies through software is detailed in numerous other illumo digital blogs. Here, I want to focus on the increasing importance of data at its most basic level; backing up its bits and bytes.

Why backup is a boardroom issue – not a backroom issue

Data backup has never been a sexy IT topic, even among technologists. It hasn’t really changed in decades, because it hasn’t needed to. You keep a copy of your data just in case something goes wrong. It’s an expense; an insurance policy.

And yet the pace of data growth, spurred on by more devices, apps and software feeding off a huge ubiquitous supply of broadband, has left many organisations’ backup procedures in the digital slow lane. Unless backup processes are radically improved, these effects can include:

  • The increasing scale of data making it more time-consuming to perform each data backup from beginning to end
  • The immense processing power and bandwidth requirements associated with backing up data offsite impacting massively upon IT performance; compromising business-as-usual activities whenever backups are performed
  • The 24/7 nature of modern business lessening the effect of running overnight backups; an age-old strategy designed to minimise the performance impact of backups
  • The criticality of real-time data necessitating more frequent backups (daily rather than weekly or monthly) to avoid the potential of catastrophic events from ruining the business
  • The volume and complexity of data storage increasing the period/s of time it takes to retrieve data held in long-term storage, or being restored from a backup following a catastrophic event
  • The prevalence of cybercriminal and other malicious attacks designed to steal or compromise data, increasing the importance of recovering rapidly using backup data
  • New compliance challenges surrounding the backup and storage of data that revolve around holding data for minimum and maximum periods, knowing precisely where data pertaining to any individual is stored, and being able to demonstrate the security of the data

Rather than being a mundane formality, data backup is essential to an organisation’s survival. This is placing backup firmly under the boardroom spotlight, enhancing the underlying data storage and processing technology in line with business expectations.

Continuous backup is the holy grail

One of the more eye catching catalysts has been the scourge of Ransomware, where a malware infection on an organisation’s network enables cybercriminals to ‘lock’ your data up unless a large ransom is paid. The tactic has claimed many victimswho would rather cough up a few thousand poundsthan disrupt their business operations for as long as it takes to dig out their latest data backup and attempt to rehydrate their entire business from its contents.

One might assume that the threat of Ransomware would encourage more spending on firewalls and other security infrastructure, and to a certain extent this is correct. But what if you backed-up your data continuously and incrementally, using cloud technology?

This has the benefit of:

  1. Reducing the pressure on IT performance that comes from huge periodic backups
  2. Reducing the cost and disruption of any catastrophic event
  3. Achieving the majority of data storage-related compliance requirements
  4. Rendering Ransomware threats toothless. Why would you pay to unlock data that you already have backed-up from 30 seconds ago?

The signs are that things are already changing as organisations embrace their digital futures and face up to the opportunities (and responsibilities) that surround data in all its forms. The wise and wonderful have been banging on for ages that ‘information is the most valuable commodity on earth’; long before revenue streams and entire business models became utterly reliant on digital, virtual processes, products and marketplaces – as they are today.