The average amount of data managed within an organisation has increased from 1.45 petabytes (PB) in 2016 to 9.70PB in 2018, placing new pressures on Australian businesses.
Such an explosion of data is creating the need for customers to house a deep understanding of its value, illustrated through recent Global Data Protection Index findings.
The research - commissioned by Dell EMC - highlights that 92 per cent of businesses now realise the potential value of data, with 36 per cent already executing monetisation strategies.
Yet despite this, nearly half (45 per cent) are struggling to find suitable data protection solutions, especially in the case of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Consequently, a gap is emerging in Australia between maximisation and protection, with businesses building out data-driven strategies on wafer-thin security foundations.
According to Andy Jones - sales manager of Aliva - organisations are feeling “unprecedented pressure” to take responsibility in data management.
“We’ve got a lot of customers in education and finance,” he explained. “The conversations we have with them have turned sharply to governance.
“They are now thinking about what’s being stored, and there is a feeling across the community that these organisations should be focusing more on data protection, because if their data is leaked the impact on the community is huge.”
Businesses today aren’t always comfortable executing on data management requirements however, with complexity and confusion existing around the storage of data.
“Only a very brave CIO is willing to remove data,” observed Kon Kakanis, director of Sundata. “They don’t want to be the person that admits to signing off to get rid of something valuable. CIOs need to know more about the data they hold, but unfortunately with no classification moving forward no one knows what there is.
“Helping organisations categorise their data provides them with a strategic advantage. People are running data lake projects for current data, but that’s still looking forwards, not backwards. You can gain a lot of insights from the historical data, as well. So, the question is how do you draw that value out?”
This is even more evident with smaller organisations which, in some cases, lack knowledge on data regulations and the associated risk profiles.
“In the sub-50 seat space, there’s still a significant education journey that needs to happen in terms of corporate compliance, risk, breach reporting, continuity and how they handle back-ups,” added Jonathan Allan, IT sales manager of Secure Access. “They need to learn how to handle data in general. These businesses don’t necessarily have boards, so the conversation to the senior leadership team needs to be slightly different.”
In assessing changing customer dynamics, Pia Broadley - director of vendor alliances across Australia and New Zealand at Tech Data - acknowledged the local market is struggling to balance maximising data amid heightened demands to enhance protection levels.
“The big change I’ve seen in recent times is not just about how to protect the data but how to use it,” she explained. “We find that channel partners are constantly asking about how they can build solutions to use data not just store and protect it.
“They want to know how the data becomes available in such a way the solution has a commercial benefit to them, and then how they can do that in a way that’s simple, so they don’t need to have a team to train for a month to fully take advantage of it.
“That’s happening because the partner’s customers are managing data. There is an appetite out there for customers to find data management companies and engage them, because they want to understand data better.”
Meanwhile, Geoff Hughes - managing director of Venn IT - outlined a process channel partners can use to ensure organisations are understanding of the modern data environment.
“Starting with data protection is a cleanliness exercise for an organisation – to be able to ensure it knows it is achieving its recovery points,” Hughes said. “The next step is trying to drive more value out of back-up data.
“Customer data used to sit in one data centre, now it sits everywhere. It’s sitting in an Office 365 environment, an Amazon Web Services environment, a Microsoft Azure environment, multiple data centres or through platform or software-as-a-service.
“Now, thanks to data back-ups, we can get all that data into one place. Once we’ve re-centralised all of the data, the next question to the organisation should be how do we gain some insights and value out of it? How do we transform the back-up data into a launchpad towards data lakes?”
Weighing up data
Despite the ideal of leveraging back-up data strategically, such an approach - on most occasions - could not be further from the mind of Australian customers.
Of course, data management, warehousing, back-ups and data loss prevention (DLP) are all important to a modern business, but it’s not necessarily a common customer skillset.
“Organisations that practice restoring back-ups and patching are few and far between,” acknowledged Norm Jeffries, managing director of Computer Merchants. “Our job is to encourage them to do it. We’ve all seen the war stories first-hand. It happens to organisations that it shouldn’t, it happens to the biggest in the market. Then you start to wonder how it happens.
“It’s because they don’t practice the basic things. It’s one thing to deploy a back-up solution, but it’s another thing to put aside the time to carry out a full restore test. We all need to encourage our customers to practice good habits.”
The increasing importance of data has also created a need for businesses to understand where information is residing, amid plans to integrate such information into a wider security strategy.
“Data sovereignty has become a common issue in the way that it sits and is protected,” said Ian Richards, managing director of IntegrationWorks. “As a partner, we do need to know if the data can go outside of Australia, and, if it can, what are the different data protection rights that come into play.”
But given the market landscape in Australia, can the channel rely on the potential impact of regulation to motivate?
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