The 2021 contingency playbook for the enterprise

In the wake of the disruptions of 2020, CIOs and IT teams are now putting out new fires caused by cloud sprawl and hastily executed budgeting ideas. ​Cloud adoptions accelerated many organisations’ digital transformation plans, and 2021 will be spent patching the holes and revitalising projects put on the back burner.​

The big challenge will be for enterprises to maintain, protect and provide access to the sheer data volume – growing quicker than ever before due to the pandemic. Businesses want to generate as much volume as possible, but if they don’t have the infrastructure to secure and leverage this data, the repercussions can be detrimental for their operations.

At the same time, younger generations of workers expect business technology to offer the same user experience as the tools and services they use in their personal lives – putting more pressure on CIOs to deliver that same experience. Not only does everyone want data access from everywhere, but they also want high performance too. So, what can the enterprise do to minimise risks, ensure business continuity, and safe proof its assets?

Covid impact on contingency planning

Many large enterprises manage multi-petabyte environments, and they need to be able to scale up if needed, without being constrained by hardware limits. The pandemic has driven a dramatic acceleration and transition of anything on-prem in physical data centres to the cloud. That transition has put a lot of strain on organisations, as they need to ensure they have all the capabilities that they’ve grown accustomed to in the on-premises world, in the cloud.

In the past year, businesses have had to re-consider a cloud-first strategy and solutions, more than ever, in order to future-proof themselves and fit the organisation’s evolving needs. A cloud-first strategy is more effective as, if a disaster or malicious act were to occur, impacting thousands of users and laptops, you may have to physically restore every piece of every file for every user – a time-consuming and error-prone process.

Instead, with the right cloud-native file storage solution, IT could effectively rollback the entire file system to the most recent point before the attack or incident had occurred. Since this would be a file-system-level change, all files would be restored to that point, achieving a fast and reliable level of business continuity. Such a strategy can actually reduce costs by up to 70% when compared to traditional DR approaches – truly impacting a business’ bottom line and allowing them to execute more strategic IT projects in order to respond to a rapidly evolving environment.

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You got your data in the cloud – what’s next?

About 80% of enterprise data is unstructured – yet, more than two-thirds of it goes unused as it is typically stored in silos spread across multiple locations. This makes it challenging for analytics platforms to access that data and analyse it using modern analytics tools.

However, data that’s stored in the cloud can be easily connected to sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and advanced analytics services, such as Amazon EMR, Amazon Textract, Google BigQuery ML and Azure AI. This way, organisations can eventually “shrink” their data centre infrastructure dramatically, eliminating NAS, file servers, backup and DR infrastructure, floor space, heating and cooling demands, among others.

Whatever type of unstructured data an organisation may have, such as video, text or image files, there is almost certainly a cloud service that can derive actionable insights from it, directly, without the need to navigate a structure or a tree. Cloud storage is ideal for applying AI, ML and analytics because it’s built on an object store, which is highly scalable, non-hierarchical and easily accessible. Furthermore, object stores have a great deal of associated metadata, which provide even more information to be leveraged for producing better insights.

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Core components of your contingency playbook

Investing in security will go a long way toward protecting your business – a strong front-line defence is critical to protect your servers and existing infrastructure. Eventually, you should expect that an issue will occur, and to recover as quickly as possible without disrupting your business, you need a partner that can give IT the power to restore files and volumes accessed by many different users in minutes. This technology partner should leverage the cloud with secure backup and provide the most flexibility in meeting recovery time and recovery point objectives. From a business continuity standpoint, file backup in the cloud can offer the instant recovery that is needed in times of crisis – making it an essential component of a successful crisis management or contingency plan.

The core features of a crisis management plan need to factor in speed, data recovery and testability, enabling business continuity. An immutable file system that can be leveraged cross-teams and across countries is the key – this means that files are stored in the cloud as immutable WORM (write once, read many) data and previous versions cannot be corrupted. Above all, you need to work closely with your cloud provider to come up with recovery plans and execution and run frequent tests on small data sets. That way, if your business is under risk or attack, you’ll be able to follow clear steps to recover as quickly as possible.

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Getting your house in order today

Businesses are increasingly forced to develop a comprehensive contingency or crisis management plan to ensure business resilience and competitiveness – especially as we’re coming out of multiple lockdowns and the reality of day-to-day operations is increasingly evolving.

Any large organisation should look to accelerate their cloud migration as a first step, minimise the impact on end users and IT, and leverage business benefits as soon as possible from their cloud strategies. The right provider can do the ‘heavy-lifting’ for them and offer seamless integration, delivering a rapid and painless shift from fully on-premises deployments to a hybrid configuration with private or public cloud object storage.

Investing in the protection of your most critical assets has never been for front and centre in the enterprise’s priorities. However, you will need the right tools and partners to provide quick and easy access to remote workforces, while securing your business’ data from malicious attacks.

And remember: the contingency ‘playbook’ needs to be always updated. You need to prepare, plan, and run through simulated attacks and potential risk scenarios across your organisation on an ongoing basis. The right provider will offer the data speed and recovery required to respond to today’s market’s needs. If data is stored in the cloud, it can be easily connected to AI and analytics to break silos and drive further efficiencies across an organisation.

Written by Russ Kennedy, chief product officer at Nasuni

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