How to build a data athlete

After a year where COVID put a stop to sporting events around the globe, we have recently enjoyed an international sporting renaissance with athletics, soccer, tennis, and many other fixtures bringing the world’s premier sportspeople back into competition. For these athletes, it took months of planning, training and recovery to ready themselves for the moment when it’s vital for them to perform at the highest level. Many enterprises will face similar pressures and experience moments where they will need medal-winning performance from their data. So, what can we learn from the athletes and the routines they follow to prepare for major events?

It all starts with assessing the situation and building a plan

You can be sure that no world-class athlete woke up this morning and wondered what sort of exercise they might do later. Everyone has a plan.

Moreover, that plan will be based on an absolutely thorough understanding of the situation that the athlete finds themselves in. Their weight, height, age, diet, heartrate, previous performance, and probably even the shoes they’re wearing will have been factored in. 

Enterprises need that same level of understanding in order to be able to deliver world-class performance for their data. What’s their data footprint? How fast can they move their data? How old is their data? Without this sort of information, it’s impossible to start to build a really effective plan for how to get their data into great shape. Sadly, too few organisations have this level of understanding. Veritas research shows that more than half of all data that enterprises are storing is deemed ‘dark’, which means that they don’t really know what it is.

Step One for businesses that want to be able to get their systems restored fast is to carry out a full assessment of the data that they have, build a plan for what data needs to be protected, where it needs to be stored and how it needs to be handled.

Train, test, train again

Once an athlete’s training plan has been created, they get to work and train hard! Throughout the training, performance will be tested again and again, with adjustments made along the way to ensure constant improvements.

For enterprises, the process should be the same. The average business has now fallen victim to 1.87 ransomware attacks so, for most companies, ransomware is inevitable. With that in mind, they should be training for it. 

Just as athletes will tweak their training to close the gaps in their performance, tweaking data management rules will allow business to do the same. Shockingly though, 40% of enterprises haven’t tested their data protection plans for more than three months. It seems like a big chunk of companies have trained data laggards rather than data athletes in this respect.

Additionally, tests should be holistic and able to surface unexpected issues. A tweak to an athlete’s regime that appears to drive a benefit in one place, might unwittingly be causing an adverse reaction somewhere else: something good for strength might limit speed; something good for speed might limit endurance, and so on. The only way to know is to keep monitoring everything for the slightest change. With data, the same monitoring is critical. Being able to spot changes in your data in real time is the best early warning system that something is wrong. 

This process of test, tweak and test again should ultimately deliver the optimum efficiencies for the athlete. The same balance needs to be found for data: the right data, on the right platform, with the right policies in place will give businesses the optimum performance for their data. This means offloading the weight of dark data and archive data from the network and ensuring speed with the use of high-performance appliances and storage, where needed.

Recovery is critical

Whilst some athletes look like they’re invincible, most professional sportspeople regularly fall foul of injury. In fact, for every 100 occasions on which an athlete competes, they should expect to injure themselves 1.38 times. It’s almost an inevitability that they will find themselves needing to recover and that recovery is built into their programme.

Critically, athletes need to understand the severity of their injuries, the different options open to them and the window they have for recovery. For businesses, data injuries are just as inevitable: it’s not a case of ‘if’ ransomware will hit them but ‘when’.  So, organisations need to think about their own recovery plans. How much data has been stolen in the ransomware attack?  What needs to be recovered first? How long do they have to get this done before the damage to the company is irretrievable? 

Understanding what data has been stolen isn’t always easy. Prioritising what to restore isn’t always obvious either. Unifying data management into a single strategy to protect and restore information can simplify this process. With one pane of glass from which to monitor all a business’s data, it’s possible to accurately assess which data sets are affected and to bring them back in an orchestrated way. A recovery plan that centres on a single platform that can cover all data, wherever it is from edge to core to cloud, simplifies restoration and puts control back in the hands of the IT team.

Businesses deserve a medal

It’s not easy defending against the pressures on modern data infrastructures.  Multi-cloud networks, containerised applications, compliance pressures – not to mention the ongoing and ever-growing threat of ransomware – continue to make the challenge harder. But we have some great examples in our sportspeople around the world for how they have risen to challenges, so let’s let them teach us some of their lessons so that we too can deliver medal-winning performance.