Today’s enterprises have gold mines of data sitting around collecting dust. This might sound surprising because studies show that companies of all sizes and scopes consider data a critical component of their digital transformations (DX). After all, the more companies learn about their customers, competitors, markets and own internal operations, the more they should be able to apply those insights to DX initiatives.
However, data reuse, broadly defined, isn’t generating the impact that it could. While data volumes keep growing, companies aren’t taking advantage of the data they’ve already stored when they have to make decisions about how to transform their operations. They’re going mainly on gut instinct. To connect with customers in more meaningful ways and deliver maximum value to the bottom line, organizations need to do a better job unleashing the data they’ve gathered and stored in backup systems.
Unleashing data requires a series of skillful hand-offs in the third phase of a long process, and the first two phases — protecting and managing the data — take a lot of work. Companies start by collecting their data and protecting it with snapshots, backups, replication and long-term retention. The next stage is to position the data as more than just an insurance policy, turning it into an asset that’s fully integrated into the organization. This can be achieved through integrations, data services, governance, data migration, policy-based automation and orchestration, and the ability to copy data for reuse. The final phase culls the data for insights to do things like improve customer experience, enable new products and services, or improve customer intimacy.
Companies are motivated to take the next step. According to a report published by IDC, spending on DX initiatives is growing by 17.5% a year and is expected to hit $7.4 trillion by 2023. The problem is that according to a recent Veeam survey, almost half of all global organizations’ DX journeys are being held back by unreliable legacy data protection technologies. Data isn’t just in data centers anymore. It’s spread all over the place — in data centers, in the cloud and in shared storage systems. Legacy tools designed to back up files and applications on premises can’t handle the data requirements in today’s hybrid and multicloud world. These tools are also inefficient, and they’re putting companies’ data at risk.
Reusing production data that’s stored in backups and replicas is an effective way to make better decisions about your business. Information in these backups can be used to classify data, scan for security threats or accelerate the delivery of new business services. If this expertise is not internally available, you can provide copies of your backup data access to third-party experts to scout out patterns or discover anomalies that generate valuable insights.
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Here are a few ways to unleash backup data to transform your business:
• Crack open the backups and look for malware. Vulnerability scans that companies perform often don’t find sophisticated and targeted malware that sits dormant on systems for weeks at a time before spreading suddenly across thousands of machines. Rather than having to shut systems down, set up automatic, scheduled scans that look inside data backups to detect malware before it has a chance to act.
• Data classification. Organizations have shifted from the days of security being the primary driver of data governance and compliance to a more privacy-regulated environment. Customers now have control over their own data, including the right of data access and the right to be forgotten. The enterprise can open backups to determine what kind of data is in the dataset and do a more strategic job of managing and classifying the data as personally identifiable. This type of data classification has the added value of reducing costs of long-term storage for less-valuable data, as well as reducing risk. Data should never be retained for a longer duration than is necessary.
• Improving workflows. Many companies mine their own data to monitor how users click on buttons within their software. They track the sequence of events that customers click on. If a company applies that insight on a mass scale for hundreds of thousands of customers, it can determine that one particular workflow requires everyone to accomplish a task in six clicks. Can the software provider streamline that process to get it down to four clicks? That’s an insight you can generate by taking a copy of it and inspecting people’s workflows as they click through the software.
Digital transformation is a long and complicated journey but can deliver significant value. To start preparing for a shift toward reusing production data, organizations should first implement a program around data life cycle management that includes setting data scopes and classifications. From there, the next step is putting protocols in place that dictate who gets access to data and for how long. Usually, not everyone in an organization needs access to every piece of data. Think through which teams — both internal and external — need to access which datasets, and grant access as needed. Timelines around data are also important because organizations need to consider what will happen to data after it passes its set expiration date. Will it be deleted or validated?
Taking these steps can help businesses prepare for a shift toward data reuse, ultimately empowering them to meet emerging market demands, deliver improved business outcomes and provide a valuable competitive advantage.