Planning renewals, protecting data

Change is the only constant. This phrase has almost become a cliché. This year, all of us have talked about change, disruption and the new normal. But it is true – change is what defines these last few months.

Remote work. Accelerated digital transformation. Cloud adoption. These were some of the biggest changes businesses across the globe have had to deal with in 2020. Yet, if we take a walk down memory lane, these ‘changes’ were already on the top of business agendas in the last two to three years.

Still, many of us were caught off guard when the pandemic hit. We had to enforce these ‘changes’ overnight.

All of us have learned a great deal since. In the data world, there have been several conversations around data protection and what is emerging as the “new normal”, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for businesses in view of this. Analyst firm Forrester noted that the pandemic will result in a renewed focus on automation, rampant digitization and risk mitigation for businesses across Asia Pacific. According to IDC research, security has become one of the top IT spend for businesses in this region.

After listening to various perspectives, I have come to realise we all need to embrace a culture of preparedness. If we prepare for a new set of norms by approaching change as a ‘planned renewal’, businesses would perhaps be better equipped to deal with disruptions in the future.

How exactly can we prepare for change? Here are some areas businesses can look at to plan for the new set of norms, and even the next disruption, while protecting their data.

Disaster recovery preparedness

Business continuity is the name of the game this year. COVID-19 presented a unique challenge we’ve never had to face before. In the past, disaster would be considered “smoking holes,” but today there is a broad continuum of catastrophes – from global pandemics to natural disasters and even cyberattacks. Some of these begin as business interruptions which eventually progress to more significant issues that we should respond to through the execution of a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan.

Cloud DR is enabling organizations to quickly recover data from locations around the globe. While working from home in Chicago or Chennai, IT leaders can restore cloud-based workloads to offices, manufacturing facilities, or cloud-based services around the world, without the need for physical access.

While technological advancements have enabled the evolution of DR over the years, the most common assumption that has yet to completely change is that IT is a cost centre, simply facilitating what the organization needs to do. When you look at disaster recovery and business continuity, they are no longer two separate business challenges – they are now two sides of the same coin. IT plays a significant, invested role as a stakeholder in the operation of the business that make these possible.

In this ‘new normal’, organisations should now realize the actual value of IT, and how it can deliver more services, more efficiently, with a flexibility the business does not even know it needs yet.

Preventing ransomware

Remember the days when ransomware emerged as a huge concern for businesses? Today, there’s yet another new headline and a new ransomware codename almost every week.

Defining a new normal in the combat of ransomware is an ongoing journey, partly because the entire industry is not at a standstill. Ransomware has been persistent through the years because of corporate inertia to change these norms.

However, what makes ransomware so challenging is that it strikes at the metaphorical fault line in the old way of doing things. More often than not, ransomware seems to fall short of traditional disaster recovery scenarios, which are typically geared to address data protection needs at the edge, and the physical unavailability of data. Yet, the urgency of having all of an organization’s data encrypted cannot be met by traditional availability and operational recovery schemes.

Businesses can prevent ransomware with encrypted backups, alerts, anomaly detection, immutable backups, air gap and data isolation support. If a ransomware attack does happen, focus on equipping teams with capabilities for rapid data recovery.

Accelerated cloud adoption

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research found about one in three organizations had reported a pandemic-influenced push for increased cloud migration. While 34% of the BCG survey respondents reported accelerated cloud migrations in response to COVID-19, 46% expect cloud migration to be a major priority over the next 12-24 months.

As the cloud continues to take off, businesses should realise that although cloud-based workloads may rely on the high availability of the cloud, they still need data protection from another third-party. Enterprise-grade backup and recovery are the organization’s responsibility, not the cloud provider.

There is a natural fit between cloud adoption as a tool to accelerate digital transformation, and data protection in the cloud. By moving backups and archives to the cloud, businesses can shift focus (and budget) from maintaining legacy hardware to efforts around modernization and transformation. At the same time, as IT modernization pushes data into more environments, cloud data protection helps businesses avoid carrying forward outdated silos and processes – or creating even more of them – as they advance into a digital future.

Embrace change as a planned renewal

There is no doubt that the pandemic has surfaced unique challenges to organizations. The unexpected disconnection of people, processes and technology is ultimately reshaping businesses.

As we settle into and adapt to this newness, it is important to recognise the more persistent challenge – to consciously shape the “new normal” and keep pace with change. Being prepared is an easier conversation to have right now than in the past. Businesses that embrace change as part of a planned renewal instead of accepting it as an external consequence, will be in the best position to weather future uncertainty.