Guus Leeuw jr, president & CEO of ITPassion Ltd, urges creativity in the way data is stored.

Any piece of electronic information needs to be stored somewhere and somehow. This should guarantee access to that piece of information over the years.

You want that information backed up, in case a disaster strikes, so that you can restore and access it again. For some information, a need exists to keep it for a long period of time, three or seven years.

Let’s focus on backup and restore for a moment. Often, a system or its data is backed up for disaster recovery purposes.

Tapes are then eventually sent off-site for safe storage. Such tapes must be re-introduced to a restore environment. What happens with the tape while it is in secure storage is often unknown to the Enterprise.

A tape that is sent for off-site storage contains some form of catalogue to identify the tape and its contents.
This catalogue, in extreme cases, must hold enough information to retrieve the stored data, even if one had to re-install a new backup environment due to disaster.

Backup solutions conforming to the NDMP standard could utilise a pre-described recipe to store the data on the tape, in form of well-quantified storage records. Anybody with a conforming reader application could then retrieve the data off the tape and try to inspect it.

This is a potential security risk, especially in light of recent events of lost data and the concern that that caused with the general public. It would be good if the backups were duly encrypted so that even a good hacker cannot crack the contents of the tape, which is supposedly important, considering that a lot of Government Agencies deal with private data.

Equally important is the fraud that we hear about so often in the news lately: Thrown-away computers that get shipped to some far-away location, where the hard disks are inspected for private data such as credit card and other “useful” information. It would be good if a PC had a little program that wipes all data securely off the disk, before people turn it off one last time.

Governments have done what it takes to support this kind of security: Air Force System Security Instructions 5020, CESG, German VSITR, just to name a few. Tools are not hard to find, however they are generally not for free, and in my opinion, Governments can do more to publish the availability of this type of product.

Talking of storage, let’s focus on the part of the storage infrastructure that is mostly “forgotten”, but very critical: the fibre optical network between the server equipment and the actual storage equipment.

With the current trend to reduce carbon footprint and hence save the planet, there is another aspect of virtualisation that is actually more critical to business than the reduction of carbon footprint alone. That aspect is cost savings. Did you know that you can slash your annual IT cost by at least 40 per cent when opting for virtualised server environments alone: You need less hardware, which is the biggest cost, and overall you would spend less on power and cooling.

As these virtualised environments support more and more guest environments, simply because the underlying physical layer gets more powerful, a faster and better access to the back-end storage systems is required.

Speeds of up to 8Gbps are not unheard of in the industry for your storage network. Even storage devices start supporting 8Gbps connection speeds. Do you need it? Not always. If you’re supporting several I/O-intensive guest servers, you might be surprised how much more throughput you can achieve over 8Gbps bandwidth versus over 4Gpbs bandwidth.

Implementing Microsoft Exchange environments on virtualised hardware becomes very possible. Especially if you can achieve end-to-end, virtual server to storage, guaranteed data paths as if your virtual environment were a physical environment.

Hosting for multiple Government Agencies starts to wander into the realm of the possible as well. If all Agencies in a County were to put their IT together, great things can happen to the overall cost of running IT at the Government.

Sharing knowledge and space wherever possible would seem a good strategy to follow up on, especially now that the public is intense on reducing Government Expenditure, increasing the success of Government IT Projects, and, last but least, enforcing the reduction of carbon footprint, which is also supported by the Government itself.

Overall a good many ways exist to increase the capabilities of storage, backup and restore, and archiving. It is time that the IT industry becomes creative in this area.

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