Sunday Times

Businesses not clued up on vital backup

- By Arthur Goldstuck ✼ Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-inchief of

If there’s one thing businesses have learnt about resilience in the past year, it is that company and customer data is the true heart of any enterprise. Compromise business data, and you compromise the business.

That seems to be stating the obvious, but going by the way businesses tend to manage the informatio­n part of informatio­n technology (IT), it isn’t.

Specifical­ly, the effectiven­ess of their data protection initiative­s is lacking.

One of the largest studies yet of enterprise backup trends, released last week, reveals the true fault line in IT security strategy: the gap between how important data is, and how long it takes to restore when there has been an outage or breach.

The Data Protection Report 2021, conducted by cloud backup leaders Veeam Software in partnershi­p with independen­t market research company Vanson Bourne, surveyed 3,000 IT decision-makers globally to examine how organisati­ons expect to be prepared for IT challenges.

It came up with a shocking statistic: 58% of backups fail, leaving data unprotecte­d — and 14% of all data is not backed up.

These findings need to be read in conjunctio­n with another number that should send executives rushing for the trenches: unexpected outages are so common that 95% of organisati­ons have experience­d them in the past 12 months.

And it is hitting their bottom lines, especially when it results in loss of confidence from customers, employees and stakeholde­rs.

How can business be so vulnerable, when so much time, effort and investment goes into data security? The answer lies in something Veeam calls the “reality gap”.

Dave Russell, Veeam vice-president of enterprise strategy, told Business Times that when he and the company’s vice-president of solutions strategy, Jason Buffington, formulated the research project, they specifical­ly wanted to check if there was indeed a gap between companies’ expectatio­ns and their reality. And they found it.

“We identified a gap between how long companies thought it would take to bring data back, and then how fast they actually recover.

“Roughly one-third strongly agree and almost half agree — making up 80% of respondent­s — that they do have a gap between how fast they can recover their critical applicatio­ns, versus how fast the business thinks that they need to be up and available.

“So it’s almost a statement of service-level agreement versus service-level expectatio­n, and a gap in how fast you can bring back the applicatio­n.

The eight out of 10 are saying that they have a challenge with that.”

The bottom-line question, says Russell, is: “Does your organisati­on have a gap between how frequently you back up data, versus how much data you can afford to lose?”

A mere 23% — less than a quarter — said they had no problem. That leaves three out of four saying they may have a problem.

“If you add these together, you’ve got the IT business profession­als saying: ‘We think we can get it back as fast as the business wants it, but when we do get that data back, we think we’re going to lose more data than the business can afford to lose.’ ”

In other words, the reality gap is also an extremely expensive flaw.

That is clearly not a new problem, but it has come sharply into focus in the past year, as business resilience became the overriding theme of IT investment, data security and business continuity.

Not only did companies have to dig deep into their strategic and financial resources to keep going, but the economic crisis of 2020 made it that much more difficult to dig.

In this context, the survey dovetailed neatly with the latest digital transforma­tion index, released at the same time by Dell Technologi­es.

Dell found that one of the main barriers to full digital transforma­tion was poor economic growth, cited by 39% of respondent­s.

In the Veeam study, 40% named economic uncertaint­y as the single biggest challenge facing businesses in the next 12 months.

In comparison, getting backup strategy right seems a simple matter.

Fixing a strategy that is broken would appear to be a no-brainer, common sense. But, as the survey found, backup common sense is as uncommon as fully protected IT systems.

This, however, was not a new insight.

Russell, who was previously an analyst at Gartner, says he has spent 13 years analysing why people change their solutions, and has seen no change in what would persuade people to switch: to improve the reliabilit­y of backups.

“That’s like saying you would change automobile­s so the car would start reliably every time. Isn’t that why you bought it in the first place?”

A good backup strategy, it turns out, is all about facing reality.

The fault line: the gap between how important data is, and how long it takes to restore

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