Data protection and data growth -- within budget. Possible?

A few months ago the folks at Wikibon published a survey  around a number of different IT topics.  One of the questions centered around the biggest IT challenges that organizations were facing. The top three challenges were:

#1 – Data Growth

#2 – Budget constraints

#3 – Data protection / disaster recovery

As I considered those from my particular perspective of data protection, it occurred to me that they were all very interrelated, each affecting the others in particular ways. While trying to clarify my thoughts around this, I ended up sketching out a Venn diagram which brought it all into focus. It looks like this:

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What can this diagram tell you about your own IT challenges? The specifics will be unique to every organization – they always are – but there are some general considerations that will apply everywhere.  

Let’s start with Data Protection, which includes whatever it is you do today to protect data. As Data Protection intersects with increased Data Growth, it leads to missed backup windows. This is because older technologies are overwhelmed by the volumes of data they were never designed to handle. 

But Data Protection is also impacted by Budget Constraints, and those lead to keeping old technology around longer than you should. In many cases, the only way to escape the impact of Data Growth is moving to new technologies, but new technologies mean spending money.

Data Growth also intersects with Budget Constraints.  Tight budgets limit what IT departments can do about data growth, leading to missed opportunities because staff efforts go into bailing out the boat to keep it afloat rather than rowing toward the company goal.

All three IT challenges come together at the center in the perfect storm of corporate exposure, which means data is left unprotected, growth opportunities are missed and budgets may get cut further as a result.

All in all, not a pretty picture! So how do you break the circles open?

You can’t stop data growth (though you can probably be a lot more selective about what you keep). And budgets are influenced by many factors outside of IT department control. But you can think about re-inventing your data protection. Does that cost money? It certainly means a swap out of old technology and that means you’re paying for something new. That can often save money if it gets control of data growth, protects critical information, reduces management overhead and lets you capture opportunities currently being missed because you’ve got people on your staff doing nothing but baby-sitting backups and disaster recovery all day.

One of the hardest lessons for IT departments to learn is that doing nothing can cost more than doing something. Band-aid solutions aren’t free either. So if you are “solving” your data growth problem by adding more tape drives or throwing more disks at the problem, you are spending a lot of money but ultimately you are just running very hard in order to stand still.

You need to fundamentally reconsider how you are doing things and take a look at modern data protection technologies, which basically means snapshots and replication. That’s the way out of the Venn diagram. I have seen many cases where the initial outlay of funds results in major savings. First, you may be able to consolidate multiple products down to one solution. Try counting up just how many different tools and technologies you are using for data protection. You might be shocked to learn it’s four or five.

Initially, payments to vendors can actually go down. But the bigger savings can be on the management side. Here I’ve seen IT departments shift from one or more full-time employees just managing data protection to getting it done in an hour or less a day. That’s a huge shift of resources into more profitable and strategic IT work, getting back on top of those missed opportunities.  

By implementing an updated data protection infrastructure, you can totally change the Venn diagram to look more like this one:

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When you Re-invent Data Protection it means you can see your backup window eliminated even in the face of Data Growth. And because it ultimately leads to savings, you’ll see Budget Relief which is what allows you to justify the outlay for the new technology. By getting a grip on budgets and freeing up IT staff time, you can start to seize opportunities again.  And in the end, that is what will help you achieve corporate growth while also limiting exposure. 

Take some time to assess how your own organization fits into the Venn diagram of IT challenges, and think about what it’s costing you right now and how you can best break out of it. 

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