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What to Know to Manage Your Data Storage Strategy

By: Kal Rana on November 14, 2019

Having a good data storage strategy in place is no longer a luxury for today’s organizations. Data storing management is more important than ever, largely because the ability to derive actionable insights from data is often a key differentiator for business success. A data storage strategy doesn’t just outline how a company stores its data, but also how it makes use of that information.

15 Things You Need To Know To Manage Your Data Storage Strategy

1. Understand Your Data Needs

Managing data is anything but a “one-size-fits-all” proposition. Every organization faces unique challenges in terms of data storage and availability. Any plan to implement a comprehensive data management system must take these needs into account. Organizations need to have a clear idea of the business value their data represents and understand how to leverage storage solutions that allow them to maximize that value.

2. Have a Plan for Unstructured Data

Today’s companies accumulate massive amounts of data from a wide range of sources, but about 80 percent of it is unstructured. While structured data is organized into clearly defined formats that are easy to read, search, and understand, unstructured data does not have a specific format and can come in any size, shape, or form. This makes big data storage difficult to manage and analyze. Unfortunately, unstructured data is also a treasure trove of potentially useful information that can provide critical insights for major business decisions. Sophisticated algorithms are needed to sort through this data, so it must be stored in ways that are easily accessed and secured.

3. Consider Compliance Needs

The practice of gathering and storing data brings a variety of legal obligations along with it. While those obligations differ from industry to industry, most organizations need to be mindful of very specific compliance standards that protect them from liability and ensure the integrity of the data they collect. Failing to take compliance standards into consideration can result in data breaches that put customers at risk and inflict permanent damage to a company’s reputation and business viability.

4. Establish a Data Management Process

Simply having a data storage solution in place is only one part of the equation. Organizations must also develop a clearly defined data strategy that addresses the human aspect of data storage. What data needs to be backed up? Where is mission-critical data stored? Who is authorized to alter or move data? Who should have access to certain forms of data and when? These are all critical questions that organizations must sort out in order to ensure their data management solution functions the way it was intended to work.

5. Think Long Term

Successful organizations always have an eye on the future. This is incredibly important for enterprise data storage because managing a data solution can carry significant ongoing costs. In many cases, companies focus too much on the up-front costs of implementing a data management solution. Those data strategy costs represent only a small portion of the total cost of ownership, however. They must also think about how their storage needs might scale in the future and what degree of flexibility they may need as the business grows.

6. Adopt a Multi-Tier Approach

The days of storing all data in a single location are long gone. Today’s organizations have a wide variety of options when it comes to managing data and they should take advantage of the unique characteristics of each. A multi-tier approach that utilizes different storage technologies is essential for optimizing performance. Frequently used data, for instance, may be stored on faster, more easily accessible devices like solid-state drives (SSDs), while back-up data may be kept on more reliable devices like tape drives that lack the same level of functionality. Matching enterprise data storage technology to business needs can greatly improve efficiency and ensure that companies are able to maximize the value of their data.

7. Understand Cloud Options

Cloud-based storage technology has come a long way over the last decade. While storing critical data in a cloud environment may have given some organizations pause in years past, now there are many cloud vendors offering storage solutions that are far more secure and versatile than on-premises solutions. Whether it’s a public cloud environment or a customized private cloud, organizations should evaluate their cloud options closely before committing to managing their own storage hardware.

8. Keep Your Data Clean

As storage technology has greatly expanded big data storage capacity, many companies have become less selective about how they store information. There is often a tendency to save everything with the intention of sorting it out later. Unfortunately, later usually never comes, resulted in data storage that’s cluttered with redundant or incomplete data that is taking up valuable space and potentially compromising performance. A good data management policy treats storage space as a valuable and limited commodity, carefully screening out useless and duplicate files to keep existing data as clean as possible.

9. Security, Security, Security

A single data breach, however small, can bring down an entire company. That’s why organizations can’t afford to take data security lightly under any circumstances. Apart from meeting compliance standards for customer data, they also need to consider how proprietary information could be compromised or stolen. This is especially important for organizations that need to transfer data between multiple locations within a network. Every step of that process must be taken into consideration when implementing security measures.

10. Evaluate Backup Needs

Having a good disaster recovery system in place is no longer a luxury. Without a plan for backing up data and maintaining data availability in the event of events like a natural disaster or DDoS cyberattack, organizations could be placing themselves at significant financial risk. Even a few moments of downtime can be tremendously damaging, so identifying essential data that must be backed up at all costs should be one of the first steps in developing a comprehensive data management solution.

The 3-2-1 backup rule is an easy-to-remember shorthand for a common approach to keeping data safe in almost any failure scenario. The rule is: keep at least three (3) copies of your data, and store two (2) backup copies on different storage media, with one (1) of them located offsite.

11. Keep Up With Technology Trends

Storage technology is advancing at a rapid pace. From improvements in SSD performance to cutting edge innovations like 5d memory crystals, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest developments in data storage. However, knowing when to transition a data strategy away from outdated hardware and invest in newer storage technologies is critical for striking a balance between operating costs and performance. A good data storage plan needs to keep up with the latest storage trends to ensure that the organization is investing in equipment that best meets its current and future needs.

12. Vet Your Storage Vendors Carefully

Many organizations turn to third-party vendors to manage their big data storage infrastructure. While this can free up quite a few resources and allow IT professionals to focus on other needs, these vendors need to be carefully vetted before any data is handed over to them. Most compliance standards hold organizations accountable for not only their own practices, but also those of their vendors. Compliance reports should be always requested as part of this vetting process to ensure that vendors are adhering to all necessary data management standards.

13. Maintain Visibility

The actual process of storing data is only one aspect of an effective data strategy. Organizations must also be able to actually monitor and access that data when they need it for the system to be effective. They need to know where data is located and where it’s transported to when in use by various applications. This visibility is a crucial aspect of maintaining data security and establishing redundancy.

14. Manage Capacity Regularly

Data storage needs can change rapidly, especially when an organization implements new technology or expands its existing services. Rolling out virtual reality applications or Internet of Things (IoT) services, for instance, could result in a massive increase in data demands. Storage capacity should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that it matches the organization’s current and future needs. This is especially important for a growing company that is continually expanding services that allow it to gather and analyze more data.

15. Go Virtual

With the advent of software-defined virtualization technology, conventional hard disk, server-based storage is no longer the only storage option available to organizations. Completely virtualized network environments offer a number of advantages, although they may not be suitable for every business. If an organization is already using virtualization to shift away from the expense of maintaining their own servers, they should consider how they can use that same technology to emulate various forms of data storage in a software-defined environment.

So What’s The Best Way To Store Data Electronically?

There are a couple of different ways a company can implement digital data storage. Either you’ll be setting up in-house servers (hardware storage) or hiring a service provider (cloud storage). Both cloud and hardware storage keeps data on servers. The big difference is whether the servers are located on-premises or with another company.

For in-house hardware storage, organizations retain direct control over the servers where they’re storing data. That lets them control privacy and access, but it also means they’re responsible for maintaining the servers, upgrading and expanding as needed, and for making sure the data stays secure. All of these tasks will increase the workload for an IT department. And if those servers are damaged, data could be lost unless it’s backed up in a second storage center (see point 10 above).

With cloud storage, things are much more flexible. Organizations give up direct control over how their data is stored, but they won’t have to maintain the servers and can upgrade their storage plan at any time without hassle. And they’ll be able to access the data and work from any location as long as they have the right passwords. Data security is the biggest concern, but reliable service providers typically have the expertise to keep data safe.

Managing a data storage strategy is a significant challenge for any organization. Fortunately, there are a variety of data storage options available to them. By identifying their specific needs and understanding the latest storage technology, companies can design and implement data management systems that fit their unique business needs and provide them with the flexibility they need to adapt in the future.

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