Don’t let data recovery times keep profits down

You’re an IT decision maker, and business continuity (BC) is an important component of your IT infrastructure. You understand that accidental or malicious data loss, unplanned system outages, user error, hardware theft or failure, power failure, software failure, fire, flood, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, tidal waves and tornadoes can blow your company’s data into oblivion.

Have you considered refreshing your backup architecture and processes with short recovery windows being the primary objective?

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Could there still be a place for tape?

Often, new technologies bury old ones – think of the demise of the horse and buggy or the record player. But sometimes, established technologies have a funny way of flailing for a bit then finding a new equilibrium. In-theater movie going, for instance, didn’t die when at-home devices became popular – they both simply learned to coexist in an expanded marketplace to the benefit and joy of consumers who now had more freedom than before.

Here’s another great example: For years now, ever since the advent of the disk, pundits have predicted the apocalyptic demise of tape backup – derisively calling it “end-of-life” technology.

But it just hasn’t happened. Tape is still here, firmly entrenched in the overwhelming majority (82%) of onsite backups. Or to borrow from Mark Twain, “the reports of physical tape’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In fact, tape solutions continue to play a huge role for backup, recovery, long-term data retention and data protection in most organizations, particularly small and medium sized businesses.

Why? [Read more…]

What is it that you want to protect from data loss the most?

This can be a very difficult question.  A question that has created many products and solutions (inside and outside of IT…think insurance.)  Other than the people, the most critical asset we have in most organizations is the information.  If it were not for that information we wouldn’t need all of the switches, routers, servers, and storage.  If we aren’t protecting the data that we value most as a starting point then what are we doing?

DLP (Data Loss Prevention) has been one of the dirtiest words over the last ten years.  It may be even considered worse than cloud, at least in security circles.  What made this term so unpalatable is the fact that it somewhat implies that without these solutions branded Data Loss/Leakage Prevention that we are losing and leaking data.  It implies that these solutions are the silver bullet.  The end all to be all.  Obviously marketing gone wild.  There is definitely some merit in this though.  And applied correctly with other technologies can actually provide a fantastic last line of defense, which used to be endpoint anti-virus.

If the attack traffic got through the firewall, then the Network Intrusion Prevention System, then hopefully the endpoint anti-virus software would pick it up.  But what happens when it doesn’t?  What happens when the system has been compromised without detecting for a while.  This is where the data starts to get pulled out of the network, or exfiltrated.

Assuming there is a compromise, let’s delve into our solutions that make up a DLP strategy and provide some examples of when each of them is used.  Ideally you’ll find which of these following solutions fit best in your environment today. [Read more…]

Where Did My Data Go?

It seems that as we find newer, faster and more efficient ways to store, access and manipulate data, we can’t seem to keep up with the growth of the data itself. Even worse, we seem to be at odds with finding ways to successfully protect that data from being lost in the abyss.

Backups exist for one function, (No, it’s not to cause a nightly headache for your storage admin), it’s to facilitate the ability to restore data in the case of its disappearance. This can happen in many ways, and whether it’s from accidental user deletion, data corruption, failed disks, power outage or natural disaster, the result is the same… users scream “Where did my data go?!?!?!”

Many companies have complex backup schedules which utilize technologies such as disk staging, data de-duplication, virtual tape libraries, and physical tape libraries. But if the data itself can’t be restored, what good are the underlying technologies? Not much at all.

Many of the organizations I talk to focus all their attention on the “backup” process, but very few ever want to discuss the “restore” process. They spend thousands of dollars on nifty software that supports things like:

  • Data De-duplication – The ability to reduce data sets by only storing 1 copy of each block of data or file
  • Object Consolidation – The ability to create and amalgamate different data sets from different dates into one “synthetic/virtual” backup job. This allows them to run an “incremental forever” policy
  • Granular Recovery Functions – Very important within virtual environments as this allows administrators to recover full VM hosts, VM’s within a host, folders attached to a VM, or even single files within a VM folder
  • Zero Downtime Backup – Which is the ability to integrate onsite storage arrays with the application and backup stacks to provide fully application consistent  backups through the use of array snapshot technology.

All these tools help client reduce backup windows, add flexibility, speed and even granularity to their backups. They also increase automation and reduce user intervention. So isn’t technology a wonderful thing? And haven’t backups come so far over the years? The short answer is YES. But unless you can restore that data successfully [Read more…]

Backup against the wall?

Presenting Softchoice’s Top 6 backup challenges brought on by the virtualization revolution.

Few who’ve seen virtualization implemented in their organizations would debate its benefits. Reduced costs, fewer physical servers, less IT admin time – what’s not to love? But as users rely more on virtual machines, protecting the virtual environment is becoming more critical and complex – and there increasingly lies the struggle. Because the reality is, traditional backup applications haven’t kept up and organizations are struggling to find simple and cost-effective ways to not only protect the data in VMs but protect the VMs themselves.

With that challenge in mind, we thought we’d highlight the top six backup challenges arising from virtualization:

  1. ISV backup software simply isn’t cutting it. A lot of organizations have existing independent software vendor (ISV) applications that are fine for traditional disk or tape backups but much ISV software hasn’t kept pace or been optimized for VMware. VMs are complex enough without making managing and backing them up even more difficult with solutions that aren’t up to the challenge.
  2. Change agents. When software had to be backed up on one or a handful of physical servers that was one thing. But now organizations have dozens, hundreds, even thousands of VMs. That’s a lot of licenses, a lot of CPU power, a lot of I/O power, a lot of IT people painstakingly installing agents on each machine – in other words, it can be a very resource intensive process. The trend is moving to agentless backup software, which backs up systems without needing to install agents on each machine – it can even be done remotely (see #6).
  3. Virtual sprawl and slow backups. VMs, by their very nature, tend to be fat with lots of redundancy and unused capacity, often because they were over-provisioned at the start – someone thought they’d need a 100 Gb server for an HR application but it turned out 20 would have been enough. Now you’ve got a large machine (or two or two thousand of them) that will be slower to backup than they need to in part because most backup solutions read entire big disks and move entire VMs. [Read more…]

Little known ways of managing mobile devices to prevent data loss

This article originally appeared on Stephen’s personal blog. You can visit it here. 

Most people feel naked without their smart phones and tablets. The adoption rates of these devices over the last five years have been explosive with an expected 10 billion by 2020, according to Morgan Stanley  (to give you an idea of the magnitude – PCs and notebooks are at about 1 billion today.) Morgan Stanley also predicts that 95% of devices purchased for business will be by employees. This means that there will soon be a diverse selection of mobile devices in the office (for example right now Softchoice’s Employee Choice model has brought hundreds of iPhones into our environment.) How is IT going to cope with this?

Device heterogeneity is a serious issue.  Similar versions of Apple’s IOS Operating System run on iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices. Android has been modified by several vendors including Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. HP recently introduced new versions of WebOS that run the Palm Pre3 and TouchPad.  RIM has also introduced the Playbook that works with Blackberry devices. Is your head spinning yet?

All of this heterogenity has left network administrators confused about how to apply one of the most fundamental principles to these devices: centralized management. Lack of centralized control and updating is an architecture built for an individual, not an enterprise. Centralized management of mobile devices is crucial as part of a Data Loss Prevention program because of they are easily lost, stolen, (and likely soon to be) compromised. 

Here are seven little known ways to implement a Mobile Device Management solution: [Read more…]