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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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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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