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What’s next for disaster recovery?

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Companies are now less concerned with data backup times, but more with the integrity and time taken to restore a backup. It is for this reason that recovery times and objectives are becoming more precise than ever, writes MARK BENTKOWER.

When it comes to modern data protection, not all data should be treated the same way. Long gone are the days of just dumping a bunch of files onto a tape overnight and sending it to the vault. Today’s organisations are less concerned about data backup times, than they are about ensuring a quick and easy recovery of application data and business services due to a natural or human-induced disaster. Recovery time and recovery point objectives are becoming more precise and demanding as Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) begin to cover larger amounts of data.

A recent IDC survey of small and medium-sized business users revealed that 67 percent of these firms have a recovery time requirement of less than four hours, while 31 percent have a recovery time requirement of less than two hours. Recovering from multiple mediums, such as Storage Area Network (SAN) snapshots, hypervisor guests and virtualised applications is critical to maintain productivity and avoid the legal risks and hefty financial penalties that come with broken SLA’s. Rapid application recovery is fast becoming the only option, providing organisations with new levels of agility that are critical in today’s information era.

Recognising DR challenges

In a region where serious outages and natural disasters are not uncommon, the lack of a comprehensive Disaster Recovery (DR) plan has the very real potential of threatening the continued existence of some organisations. Many companies in Southeast Asia do not have a cohesive DR strategy, or have implemented DR strategies which cannot sufficiently safeguard them from these business crippling risks. Below are some of the key DR challenges identified in the region.

Lack of automation: The manual management of information requires a significant investment of time and burdens technical teams to simply manage backups and address issues as they arise.  There is no time to take a nuanced approach based on mission criticality. Manual systems create greater risk around human error, confidential data exposure and information loss. With automated information lifecycle systems, today’s IT teams should focus more on individual SLA’s, and should prioritise automation to free up administrators to fulfil more difficult tasks.

Use of tape: While tape is fine for slow archival storage, it is too inefficient and slow for the rapid pace of DR restores, especially at the application level. Think about the rapid pace of change at play here. In terms of global data growth, the world generated over 90 percent of extant data in the last two years alone. That’s a game changing statistic. Yet, many organisations in Asia Pacific still rely on tape as a key source of backup, which is hindering their ability to be agile, flexible and react quickly to both crises and market opportunities.

Redundant data: The proliferation of data silos within Asia Pacific organisations are hindering the ability for IT managers to make insight-based decisions and effectively manage large pools of data. This results in increased IT costs, hindered innovation and a segmented view of the business. A Commvault-commissioned survey by IDC found that 40 percent of IT decision makers across APAC report that backup, recovery, data protection and analytics strategies are still managed at a departmental level .

Network bottlenecks: Asia and the Pacific are amongst the world’s most natural disaster-prone areas. Of the world’s reported natural disasters between 2004 and 2013, 41.2 percent or 1,690 incidences, occurred in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Compounding this, Southeast Asia is made up of predominantly under-developed and developing economies with slow and unreliable network connections. For example, in Thailand, businesses have lost US$297 million in revenue from network downtime over the past year.

Defining the new state of recovery

So how can companies move past these challenges and adopt a modern approach to DR? Organisations can consider using block-level methods with orchestrated snapshot and streaming recovery across backup data with incremental change capture. This technology captures regular snapshots of only time incremental changes in information (rather than entire environment every time), which dramatically reduces network impact during data protection operations. Incremental change capture also provides downstream efficiencies in network and storage utilisation by reading and moving the delta blocks, and storing only the unique changed blocks. This reduces bandwidth and storage requirements for ongoing recovery operations, and speeds Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

Additionally, organisations can drive the benefits below from including incremental change capture in their checklist as they seek to advance their data management strategy.

– Lower impact on the business as full backups are not required – as much as 90 percent less impact, compared with streaming backup

– Workload computing capacity typically required for backup will be available for other business needs

– An hourly recovery point minimises risk by reducing RPO

– Reduction of data storage space as a single copy of the data can be used for multiple purposes

– Faster data recovery as data is stored in an open format instead of a proprietary format

Innovating to address evolving needs

As mega trends like migration to the cloud, anywhere computing, and the explosive growth of data sweep across all industries, business expectations have also evolved. Businesses have become increasingly intolerant of data loss and services downtime.  Redefining traditional DR strategies assures continued availability of information, which is fundamental to maintaining competitive edge and enabling innovation.

* Mark Bentkower, CISSP, Director of Systems Engineering, ASEAN, Commvault.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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