Simplifying Data Protection Decisions

No one doubts that computers have made businesses more fast-paced, efficient and flexible. The clerks of Dickens’ day, laboriously entering facts and figures into ledgers, are long gone. The 20th century’s legions of secretaries armed with typewriters, carbon paper and filing cabinets have faded away, replaced by administrative assistants, personal computers, and virtual files and folders. Computers have allowed companies to gather, analyse and stockpile vast amounts of data – and then use this information in ways that simply were not possible before the digital revolution.

At the same time that computers have become indispensable to businesses, however, they have opened the door to new avenues of risk. No business can afford to have its operations disrupted by destroyed data, whether from natural disaster, sabotage, human error or mechanical failure. Businesses need to be able to credibly assure their customers that they will continue to provide service, no matter what challenges arise. And, particularly in the insurance industry, businesses need to able to protect and access information on demand for years, sometimes long after a file has been archived.

Just as a business takes precautions against fraud and mismanagement, data protection should be a key element of any risk management plan. Businesses face different risks and have different levels of need, but a sufficient data protection solution should provide continuous access to important information, including a way to efficiently recover information if the access is disrupted. Unfortunately, what sounds simple as a prescription is often not easy to implement.

Data protection is a rich and evolving discipline. Making the right decision about data protection is both challenging and complex because the variety of solutions available today can be overwhelming, and trusted guidance is difficult to find. No one single answer fits all businesses because the best solution is customized to a company’s strategies, business processes and information technology infrastructure. At the same time, businesses have a compelling interest in finding the best solution since the design, implementation and maintenance of a data protection system takes time, resources and specific skills. The wrong investment can prove to be a costly mistake.

To prevent making the wrong investment insurance companies need to consider four value propositions before making a purchase decision:

Reliable. If data backup is unpredictable or prone to corruption, there is no level of confidence that data is being protected. Companies should look for technology that has been reliable over time, as well as specific products that are engineered to stand up to daily demands month after month. Solutions should have redundant components and embedded diagnostics, and the solutions provider should have a strong record of standing behind the products.

Flexibility. The best decision today may look different later when other challenges or opportunities arise. Businesses should look for solutions that support multiple technologies, not just a single, proprietary approach. Solutions should be intuitive and should simplify complexity, giving staff the options they need to manage data as conditions change. In addition, flexibility and simplicity keep operational and maintenance costs low and reduce the risk of human error.

Growth. Data protection is never static. Businesses grow, and data grows at an even faster pace. Data protection solutions should be geared toward the future, not only providing adequate capacity today and in the short-term, but also offering easy scalability for the long term. Modular components ensure that a business can never outgrow their solution. In addition, technology with a proven track record into the past and a well-defined development road map into the future provides assurance that today’s investment will provide value over time.

Value. No data protection solution is adequate if there are interoperability uncertainties, interruptions to business operations, unsustainable costs or performance level flaws. Companies need to work in close partnership with the solution provider to determine what system can meet their risk needs and service level tolerance. Look for a vendor who can develop a dollar-for-dollar comparison of technology investment alternatives that manage risk appropriately.

In our experience, automated tape libraries most often are the answer when these four value propositions are considered. They provide reliability, flexibility and growth opportunity at a reasonable investment and operational cost. Suitable in any information technology infrastructure, the newest automated tape libraries support pay-as-you-need value and simplified, enterprise-level growth – all while minimizing risk and maximizing return on investment. And for an industry that knows all about risk, automated tape libraries offer insurance against the unpredictable and unforeseeable, protecting the data that is the lifeblood of every business today.

In the insurance industry today, the decision is not whether to protect data, but “how.” And while the array of choices may seem complex, the above guidelines should make the decision about how to protect data much more simple than it first appears.

Quantum is exhibiting its line of storage solutions at Storage Expo, the United Kingdom’s largest dedicated data storage event designed to deliver the latest storage products on the market to more than 3,000 end users. The event is at Olympia in London from 15-16 October 2003. For more details, see www.storage-expo.com.