In our latest Knowledge Leadership piece, we take a look at data storage management. We explore what we mean by effective data storage management, the different types of data storage available to organisations, and what your business can do to ensure your data storage management strategy is effective, efficient and relevant.
What do we mean by effective data storage management?
Data storage management is the process followed in an organisation for storing their valuable data. This can be done in a number of ways. This might be through the use of one or more different storage techniques or with the help of hardware and/or software.
It is very important that businesses take a planned strategic approach to data storage management. When an organisation has a well-defined and properly organised strategy, it much easier for that organisation to not only store its data but, more importantly, to retrieve it whenever someone needs access to it.
What are the benefits of data storage management
- Greater data security: Having a well-planned and consistently implemented data storage management strategy will ensure you have considered the potential security risks with regard to your data and have put measures in place to both monitor and mitigate these risks.
- Ensured compliance: Different types of data in every business needs to comply with very specific regulations or auditing requirements. A well-devised strategy will ensure that all the applicable compliance requirements have been considered and measures have been put in place to deal with them.
- Better system performance: Having a clear understanding of your business’s ongoing data needs will ensure that the business has the right level of capacity for the different kinds of data in the business. Having the right amount of storage at the right time will ensure that your data storage system performs at its optimal level.
- More flexibility and easier scalability: A well-devised data storage management strategy will give your business the flexibility to scale up or scale down your data storage systems as demand fluctuates.
- Lower costs: Greater data security, improved compliance, better system performance and easier scalability will, ultimately, lead to lower operational costs in the long term.
What to consider when devising a data storage management strategy
Before formulating your data storage management strategy, you need to think about the following:
- Understand your data: It is vital that you have a good understanding of your data when devising your data storage management strategy. Important things to consider when looking at your different types of data are:
- How fast do I need to be able to access this data?
- How soon do I need the data back if it is lost?
- How long do I need to retain this data?
- How secure does the data need to be?
- Are there any compliance issues that need to be adhered to with this data?
- Is there redundant data in the business that no longer needs to be retained?
- Don’t neglect unstructured data: Unstructured data is information you hold in your business, such as text documents, images, emails, video or audio files, that does not follow conventional data models and cannot be managed in a mainstream relational database. Even though it is more difficult to manage than structure data, the majority of new data being generated today is unstructured and therefore should not be neglected. It is very important when devising your data storage management strategy to consider the scale, importance and security risks attached to this type of data in your business.
- Understand your compliance needs: Every business will have data types that need to comply with regulatory or auditing requirements. It is very important that you have a firm handle on what the regulations are and what you need to do with your data to ensure it complies. If you choose to outsource some or all of your data storage requirements, ensure that the service provider also has the credentials to ensure you maintain your compliance.
- Understand your data retention needs: One of the best ways of ensuring your business has both internal data governance and legal compliance is a solid data retention policy. If you work across multiple geographical locations, make sure you clearly understand the different data retention requirements in each geographical location.
- Consider a tiered storage approach: Not all data ni your business is the same and therefore it is highly unlikely that a “one size fits” all approach to data storage will be the best approach for your business. Therefore, it is important to consider a tiered approach to your data storage needs. You may use one type of storage for data that you actively use and need fast access to. You may then have another which is less easily accessible but more cost effective as archived data being held for compliance requirements.
- Understand your data security needs: When choosing your data storage systems, security has to be your first priority. However, not all data needs the same level of security. Make sure you assess the security risks of the data being lost, destroyed (by accident, natural disaster or deliberate attack) or hacked, and choose the level of security required accordingly.
What are different storage types available to most organisations?
- Cloud storage: Cloud storage is defined as a data deposit model which “allows users to save important data or media files on remote, third-party servers. Users can access these servers at any time over the internet. Also known as utility storage, cloud storage is maintained and operated by a cloud-based service provider.”
- Software-defined storage:– This is a form of technology used in data storage management that intentionally separates the functions responsible for provisioning capacity, protecting data and controlling data placement from the physical hardware on which data is stored.
- File storage: This is one of the most common ways to store and access data in on-premises, virtual and cloud servers. File storage is often used for unstructured data and stores data and its metadata in a hierarchical architecture format (files and folders). There are three main types of file storage systems: disk/tape file systems, network file systems and special file systems.
- Block storage – This is also a very common way to store and access data. Block storage is used for structured data and stores data in blocks (set sequence of bytes) with a unique hash value which functions as an address. In block storage, the data is stored without its metadata (data format, type, ownership). The most common examples of block storage are SAN (Storage Area Network), iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface) and local disks.
- Object storage – With this form of data storage, the data is managed as objects. Each object typically includes the data itself, a variable amount of metadata and a globally unique identifier. Object storage systems allow the retention of very large amounts of unstructured data. Microsoft Azure Storage is an example of object storage.
Ongoing data storage management considerations
- Maintain and update your data retention policy: Once your data retention policy is live, it is important to keep it up to date. Data professionals recommend that you should regularly review your policy (annually or biannually) to ensure that it is updated with any new compliance rules or technological considerations.
- Ongoing data security measures: It is also very important to stay up to date with ever-evolving data security measures. Cyber criminals are constantly becoming more sophisticated and coming up with new ways to cause data breaches or service disruptions. It is therefore important that businesses not only keep up to date with emerging cybersecurity trends, but also consider what measures need to be put in place to mitigate the risks caused by them.
- Keep up to date with data storage techniques: Data storage systems are also always evolving. Make sure you regularly review which techniques you are using in your tiered storage approach. What might have been the most cost- effective and efficient two or three years ago may no longer be the right one for you.
- Create and constantly test a disaster recovery plan: Businesses always need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: the complete loss of essential data. One of the ways to do this is to regularly test your data recovery plan. Some data professionals recommend doing random recoveries each week and ensuring that you have a backup strategy based on multiple copies, such as the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy.
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