What organisations should expect next in the evolution of data

Unprecedented. Extraordinary. Unforeseen. As well as rewriting the rules of life and work as we know them, Covid-19 has thrust a whole host of previously underused words to the forefront of our collective lexicon. They’re cliched – but also true. The challenges thrown up by the pandemic are unlike anything the vast majority of us will have experienced before. Core to that upheaval for businesses has been digital transformation and, in particular, the use of data.

As workers dispatched to home offices and kitchen tables all over the world, many had to abandon multi-year development plans and shift operating models almost overnight. Cloud migrations and the adoption of virtual collaboration solutions accelerated in order to ensure a newly remote workforce could access the tools and information they needed to stay productive and secure.

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It was – and continues to be – an enormous challenge. Yet if there are few lessons to be found in the past, how about looking to the future? With many of the coronavirus-induced changes likely to be permanent, what can organisations expect in the evolution of data during 2021 and beyond? And, crucially, what should IT leaders be doing to prepare?

Time to get serious

Before Covid-19 hit, data was already becoming fundamental to organisations’ future success. That journey has been supercharged. According to new research from Druva, 79% of IT decision makers in the US and UK now see data management and protection as key to competitive advantage. Similarly, 73% say they rely more heavily on data for business decisions, while 33% believe its value has permanently increased since the pandemic began.

Therefore, if the message for IT leaders on their data strategy pre-pandemic was ‘get moving’, in 2021 it will be ‘go faster’. As the move towards a digitally-led future gathers pace, we’ll see a growing number of organisations move to make data a pervasive part of everything, from operational decision-making to customer experiences. Rapid availability and analysis will be vital.

High stakes

That’s not to say this transformation comes without risk. The same Druva research found 73% of IT decision makers have become more concerned about protecting their data from ransomware, and rightly so. Many report a year-on-year increase in phishing, malware and ransomware attacks. With large numbers of people working outside the office and some high-profile recent successes for cyber criminals, we can expect this threat to grow further in 2021.

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Here, the healthcare industry should be especially wary. Given the scale, notoriety and severity of any breach involving patient data, particularly as Covid-19 vaccine efforts intensify, attackers will hope to cash in on the potential ransom rewards on offer.

For medical research labs, big pharma and biotechnology companies, the cyber security stakes will therefore be higher than ever. But other sectors must be equally on guard. As remote working becomes more commonplace and sophisticated, so too will the ways that criminals seek to expose any chinks in organisations’ armour. Those that fail to establish a comprehensive data protection solution will find themselves at considerable risk of attack.

Shared responsibility

Yet not all threats originate externally, nor do they always carry malicious intent. Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, IT leaders report a 43% rise in data outages and 40% uptick in human error when handling information. Such incidents tend to be non-criminal in nature but their impact can still be significant – operationally, financially and reputationally.

Given the use of private cloud technologies will undoubtedly continue growing, workers throughout an organisation (not just the IT department) should expect to take greater responsibility for preserving the integrity and security of its data in future. Backed, of course, by the necessary tools, training and support from their employers.

We can also anticipate that on-premise disaster recovery will fade away, replaced by a move towards protecting data in the public cloud. As 2020 has proven, the world is now a less stable and predictable place. Organisations increasingly recognise that being able to quickly access and recover important information remotely during future disruptions will be key to business continuity and resilience.

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Data central

Even with hopes of a vaccine growing (and with it the prospect of a return to something like normal life), the world’s collective digital transformation is here to stay. Remote working will be a normal part of the week for millions. And organisations’ ability to gather, analyse and act upon their data will become ever more central to meeting the expectations of their customers, shareholders and staff.

Currently, 41% of IT leaders say the data they collect isn’t readily available or accessible when they need it to make decisions, according to Druva’s survey. No matter how unprecedented or extraordinary the next 12 months prove to be, this time next year that figure must be a whole lot lower.

Written by Andrew Daniels, CIO and CISO at Druva

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