The data challenge
Many public sector entities adopt a 'head-in-the-sand' approach to dealing with data challenges. Instead, they should be seeking true visibility, as this is the foundation for digital success.
It's no surprise to learn that today, data is considered to be the lifeblood of the organisation, in both the private and public sectors. However, government especially faces a number of unique business challenges in regard to data, challenges that can effectively be broken down into five specific areas.
The first of these, explains Geoff Greenlaw, senior director, emerging region EMEA at Veritas, is the growth of data and in particular the speed at which this is happening. With both structured and unstructured information coming into play, growth has become exponential.
"The second issue relates to the fragmentation of data. In the past, data was kept on-premises, and potentially replicated to a different disaster recovery site elsewhere in the country. However, today, thanks to the cloud, data can effectively be stored anywhere, and the increasing number of international data centres arriving on South African shores is only going to increase this fragmentation," he says.
"Thirdly, there is a challenge around data agility, which is all about being able to recover services and make the relevant data available as and when it is needed in the event of a disaster. Compliance is the fourth aspect, and is something that leads directly into the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. It is about governance relating to where your data is stored, who has access to it and the security required to ensure it's not tampered with in any way."
The fifth, and arguably the most important of these areas, is that of data visibility, continues Greenlaw. This is about knowing how much data you have, how fast it's growing, how secure it is, whether it is available for recovery and how compliant it is to the relevant legislation like POPI.
"When you have data visibility, you are instantly more in control of the growth, fragmentation and agility of your data, which are key issues most organisations still struggle with. The big problem here is that, generally, there is a multitude of vendors whose products operate within the data centre, which makes obtaining a single pane of glass view virtually impossible. There is no one specific tool from any of these players that can provide this kind of holistic view of your total data centre environment. Therefore, public sector entities need an independent, heterogeneous approach to this, one that covers storage, apps and data in a single pane of glass."
However, he adds, instead of doing this, too often these organisations simply add more and more storage as a means of solving the problem.
"In effect, they are burying their head in the sand, instead of making a genuine attempt to fix their compliance, growth and fragmentation issues. It is necessary to rather take a step back in order to properly analyse and understand your data situation. You will need to know what you have in each layer, who has access to these layers, what data you are using and whether this data is even worth keeping in the first place."
It's particularly important for public sector organisations, which always suffer from budgetary constraints, to understand the extent of their data problem and thus be able to take effective action, as opposed to wasting resources, budget and capital by continuing to throw storage at the issue, which ultimately just further increases the operational costs in your data centre, thanks to increased space, power and cooling requirements.
"In the end, the key to a successful data strategy in today's digital environment is clear visibility of your information. Once you have visibility, you are able to make genuinely informed decisions about your data and what you can and should do with it. In essence, you could say that when it comes solving the public sector's data challenges, the first step is for them to admit that there is a problem, because then it becomes much easier to solve it," concludes Greenlaw.
Download this white paper on data management to learn more.