CIOs Face the Growing Risk of Digital Data Loss

While digital technologies have unlocked enormous productivity gains and helped businesses boost the bottom line, there’s also a growing risk of significant data loss.

Recent media focus on the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack and ongoing coverage about cyber-attacks and state-sponsored cyber-wars masks a critical issue: Cyber-attacks do not register on a list of primary reasons why companies experience data loss, according to Vision Solutions’ “State of Resilience Report 2015.”

The top five reasons for data loss, according to the research, include storage failure, the lack of a backup copy, human error, a data protection program malfunction, a data protection solution that’s down for maintenance, and corrupt data.

“Companies…must consider areas of vulnerability both known and yet unforeseen related to critical business data…particularly in light of the prevalence of hybrid data centers and the acceleration of cloud adoption,” said Alan Arnold, chief technology officer at Vision Solutions.

At the heart of the problem: Despite strong directives to build real-time data access and capabilities into the organizational structure, the majority of organizations have to make projections and decisions based on data that isn’t 100 percent accurate. For example, about three-quarters of respondents reported that their company has problems with redundant data. Legacy techniques for data sharing, such as manual scripting and homegrown tools, aren’t sufficient. There’s a growing need for effective synchronization and real-time data sharing.

Another key area, according to the report, is data migration. About 62 percent of respondents indicated that they have delayed a migration, typically due to fears about downtime or a lack of resources. Although business and IT leaders face growing and often difficult choices in this area, it’s critical to develop a clear strategy that balances downtime and associated overtime expenses with using hardware and software that is prone to failure. Consequently, it’s important to rely on sound ROI models, a framework for planning, and tools and solutions that increase the odds of near-zero downtime.

Cloud services are particularly critical. As these environments become more widespread, businesses of all sizes are migrating critical applications and data into the cloud. While many managed services providers deliver a high level of protection–in many cases exceeding what IT departments can deliver internally–the environment is becoming more complex and data protection isn’t guaranteed. As a result, organizations must focus on the topology and security of cloud systems, according to Vision Solutions.

Similarly, CIOs and other executives must pay close attention to shadow IT. As business units sign up for various managed and cloud services, most organizations do not have a governance model–or specific processes and tools–to bridge these systems and tie them into the overall IT fabric. In fact, the study found that 53 percent of executives report that it’s “difficult” or “very difficult” to align the right IT resources with changing projects. “Rigorous processes are needed to inventory all applications, ensuring that vital company information is secure and compliant with data protection laws,” Arnold said.

In the end, IT organizations must deal with migrations from legacy systems and upgrade storage hardware in a timely manner. However, many CIOs and other executives delay critical migrations because they underestimate the business costs associated with downtime and the potential damage resulting from business disruption. Likewise, IT leaders must think more strategically about the blend of systems and technologies that now occupy the data center.

“The importance of ensuring availability, protection and synchronization of data across diverse platforms cannot be understated,” Arnold said.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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