Data centers — the physical or virtual infrastructures that store, manage, and disseminate data — are the lifelines of modern businesses, large and small. With the increasing volume of data generated by modern organizations and the growing complexity of cyberthreats, the reliability, security, and efficiency of these data centers have become inextricably tied to organizational outcomes. Simply put, data center weaknesses are an obstacle to sustainable growth.
The core of a resilient data center strategy lies in three pillars:
- Backup and Disaster Recovery
- Network Security
- Data Storage
1. Secure, Accessible, and Redundant Backup and Disaster Recovery
Backups are copies of data that can be recovered in the event of a primary data failure, such as those stemming from hardware or software mishaps, data corruption, or a human-caused event, such as human error, a rogue insider, or an external attack by a hacker.
Disaster recovery, meanwhile, is a broader strategy that includes the backup process but also involves a set of policies and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster.
Both are essential for protecting business continuity, but as is often the case, their effectiveness is only as good as the systems and teams designing, implementing, and managing them. Consider that a 2021 study by Veeam found that older data backup and recovery systems have unacceptably high failure rates. According to their research:
- Only 57% of backups will be successful
- Only 61% of restores will be successful
- A business’s ability to fully recover data will succeed only 35% of the time
Those sobering numbers serve as a reminder of the consequences of failing to invest in a robust and ongoing backup and recovery solution.
Onsite vs Offsite Backups
- Onsite: Because they are stored on physical devices or servers located within an organization’s premises, onsite backups offer fast access to data and control over the backup environment. They are ideal for businesses that require immediate access to backup data or have sensitive data that cannot be stored offsite.
- Offsite: Storing data at a different location from the primary site offers protection against local disasters and physical damage to the primary site, making it a good fit for businesses looking for additional security by having their data stored remotely. Offsite backups are part of the recommended 3-2-1 backup framework (keep three copies of data, two separate onsite copies, and one offsite copy).
Increasingly organizations are offloading their backups to remote servers managed by cloud providers, which offers greater scalability, cost-effectiveness, and remote accessibility than traditional self-managed solutions. Those benefits have helped make Cloud backups an essential tool for businesses that require flexibility and regular access to data from various locations.
Best Practices for Backup and Disaster Recovery
- Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and address potential vulnerabilities
- Develop a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery plan tailored to your business needs
- Regularly update and maintain backup systems to ensure they function correctly
Every organization has its own optimal framework for backups and recovery, but across the board certain axioms hold true, and chief among them is the recommendation to perform (and audit) backups on an established frequency. Regular backups ensure that the most current data is available for recovery.
Furthermore, consistent backup schedules help to:
- Minimize data loss: In cases of data breaches or system failures, having the latest data backed up ensures the majority of the organization’s data is recoverable.
- Reduce downtime: The middle of a disaster is the wrong time to wonder where your backups are and whether they’re up to date. Quick data recovery helps in resuming operations swiftly, limiting operational disruptions.
2. Proactively Monitored and Protected Network Security
Cybersecurity is a cat and mouse game. As new security measures are developed, hackers begin finding ways to circumvent them, leading to a cycle of defense and offense. That’s why despite continual advances in cybersecurity — like behavioral detection, endpoint monitoring, physical security tokens, and zero trust frameworks — the prevalence, sophistication, and costs of cyberattacks rise year after year.
In 2023, IBM reported that the average cost of a cyberattack reached $4.45 million, the highest figure yet. That same report listed the average time to identify a breach at a staggering 207 days. The cause for that failure is potentially linked to cyber fatigue, with Cisco reporting that a growing apathy regarding proactively defending against cyberattacks has taken root in as many as 42% of companies
But ignoring this problem will certainly only make it worse. The only solution is diligent and expert monitoring, cutting-edge defensive technologies, and organizational buy-in for promoting and enforcing best security practices — and one of the first places to start putting these safeguards into practice is in critical data centers.
That’s because data centers, being the repositories of sensitive information and the backbone of many business operations, are prime targets for cyber attacks. Effective network security measures are essential to protect data centers from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. They play a pivotal role in maintaining the trust of clients and stakeholders, ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory standards, and safeguarding the overall health of the business.
- Cyberattacks: Such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, which overwhelm the network with artificially generated traffic
- Malware: Including viruses, worms, and ransomware that can infiltrate and damage systems
- Phishing: Deceptive attempts to steal sensitive information like login credentials
Data Center Vulnerabilities
- Weak Access Controls: Insufficient authentication and authorization mechanisms
- Outdated Systems: Data center software and hardware not updated with the latest security patches are more vulnerable
- Insider Threats: Risks posed by employees or contractors with access to the network
Modern data center network security is protected by tools like Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs). Unlike traditional, stateful firewalls that can only perform packet filtering (selectively allowing or blocking network traffic based on predefined criteria such as IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols), NGFWs add application-level inspection, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and both Network-based (NIDS) and Host-based (HIDS) monitoring for suspicious activity, aiding in early threat detection.
3. Efficient and Reliable Data Storage
As data volumes grow exponentially, data centers face the challenge of not only storing vast quantities of data but also ensuring that it is accessible, secure, and manageable. Efficient data storage solutions contribute to optimized use of resources, cost reduction, and enhanced data retrieval and backup capabilities, which are essential for business continuity and agility.
Increasingly, organizations of all types are migrating their data to the cloud for ease of remote access and to support distributed workforces, and because the quality, security, and cost effectiveness of cloud-based data storage options have never been better.
Cloud vs Traditional Storage
- Cloud: Offers high scalability, remote accessibility, lower upfront costs, flexibility, and robust disaster recovery capabilities — though there are concerns about potential latency issues, ongoing costs, and over data security. Cloud storage is ideal for businesses with fluctuating storage needs or those seeking to minimize on-premises infrastructure.
- Traditional: Includes physical storage devices like hard drives and SAN (Storage Area Network) systems, known for their performance and control. However, they can be costly in terms of maintenance and physical space, and they are less scalable compared to cloud storage and may pose challenges in disaster recovery scenarios.
Embracing Change: Investing in Next-Gen Data Security and Storage
The landscape of data center solutions is continuously adapting to technological advancements and the changing dynamics of the digital world. This evolution presents both opportunities and challenges. As data becomes more integral to business operations, the complexity and responsibility of managing it also escalates. It is essential for businesses to stay abreast of these changes and continuously adapt their data center strategies accordingly.
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