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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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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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