Intelligent Data Protection in Today’s Enterprise
by George Symons - CTO of Information Management at EMC Corporation - Tuesday, 22 August 2006.
As information becomes increasingly more valuable to enterprises, IT organizations must overcome some daunting and complex data protection challenges, such as recoverability, storage management and compliance. However, rather than being reactive data availability demands, enterprises now have the opportunity to proactively protect their business critical information.

Intelligent data protection is a process for designing backup, recovery and archiving procedures around the service level requirements of the application and the policies of the organization to meet the performance and availability needs, while extracting business value and ensuring compliance requirements are met for all data.

By implementing an information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy and tiering storage, enterprises can manage stored data on the optimal cost/performance based on the data’s value, retrieval and retention requirements throughout its lifecycle. Individual pieces of data are treated differently according to its contents, associated application, stage of life, compliance requirements and business value. This process includes evaluating the different requirements for operational recovery, disaster recovery and archiving.

For instance, the majority of recovery requests are for files that have been deleted or corrupted and have been protected within the last 24 to 48 hours, so it should be kept on disk for fast recovery. Long-term storage strategies are for disaster recovery and archived data that must remain protected and accessible for long periods of time, but will not require immediate user access.

Best Practices for the Enterprise

To implement intelligent data protection, an enterprise should:

1. Classify data to establish data management policies based on service level requirements. Classification includes disaster recovery requirements, point-in-time recovery objectives, retention periods, and so on. Data classification and assessment across the enterprise is a large project, and professional services organizations with assessment and tiered storage expertise can be invaluable.

2. Use disk technology for applications that have significant service level agreements (SLAs) around recovery point and time objectives.

3. Separate the concepts of backup and recovery from archive. Use backup and recovery for disaster recovery and operational recovery, and archiving for lifecycle management, retention periods, discovery and compliance.

4. Clearly understand what your compliance requirements are − government, industry, corporate governance or litigation. Most enterprises must be prepared for all of these types, and corporate IT should build storage management strategies around differing compliance requirements and discovery motions.

Planning and deploying proactive data protection in the enterprise can be complex. Consider bringing in consultants who have built successful practices around backup and recovery and archiving in enterprise environments. The consultancy must be able to carry out an enterprise-wide assessment across the entire infrastructure: understanding both storage and data networks, storage technologies and application requirements.

It is also important to understand the requirements of the lines of business, the IT organization, the general counsel and corporate security. Successful assessment, planning and deployment will allow the enterprise to architect a proactive data protection solution. This solution will enable the company to not only survive data challenges like loss and broad discovery motions, but also to strategically manage data for increased profitability.

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