Data management: The key to surviving any disaster
South Africans have found out the hard way that you never know when or how disaster might strike.
And many companies are now discovering that staying in business after a disaster is closely tied to how quickly they can restore their IT operations.
Disasters take many forms, points out Gerhard Fourie, Channel Lead for Commvault, Africa & Indian Ocean Islands. They can be a result of extreme weather, civil unrest, global pandemic, accidents, cyber attacks and more.
Many organisations have come face to face with most of these in the recent past, and not all of them have been able to recover quickly.
For instance, retailers, distributors and logistics companies lost stock and infrastructure in the recent civil unrest, then port operations were disrupted for well over a week while Transnet battled a crippling cyber attack – all played out against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
These events can have a devastating effect on companies and the economy as a whole.
"Disaster recovery and an organisation's security posture is no longer the sole responsibility of the IT team, but it is now addressed and agreed at a board level,” says Kate Mollett, Regional Manager Commvault Africa & Indian Ocean Islands. “When everything is digital, those platforms are critical to the survival of an organisation. Today, the chief information security officer (CISO) is a critical role, reporting into the board and, without doubt, front and centre in developing business strategy. Not long ago this was the domain of the security manager who typically reported into the CIO."
She cites the example of a major retailer caught up in the recent riots. “Due to damage to the data centre and the danger involved in getting to the facility, they urgently needed their data migrated to the cloud – something we were able to achieve within 24 hours.
“It’s clear that for many organisations, the data centre has become a point of failure. Just a few weeks ago, no one would have expected their data centre to be attacked and burnt, but that’s happened.
“So organisations have realised that if they have something critical, it needs to be able to resist any type of attack, whether virtual or physical.”
The case for data management
Disaster recovery has been thrust into the spotlight over the last few weeks, but data management has been under the spotlight for the last 18 months.
Work from home or hybrid working has very quickly become part of our everyday lexicon, Mollett points out. “But in the scramble to keep people working, there was often a compromise between a quick set-up and a planned roll-out, with things like security and access control often taking a back seat.”
Remote working has also resulted in IT organisations having to rethink how they manage the IT infrastructure. “In the past, the team would go into the data centre and manage it. Now, workloads are being quickly moved into the cloud and we are seeing a move to hybrid cloud, so the management challenge has changed.”
Software as a service (SaaS) is now the default way to access applications that users rely on, such as Office 365 and their business apps. Plus, there is a new reliance on collaboration applications like Teams, where data is shared and so needs to be secured.
In this new environment, where work is happening in the core, on the edge and in cloud, securing and backing up data is more important and also more challenging than ever before.
“One of Commvault’s pillars is automation, and we provide intelligent data management across all workloads and platforms, which frees up IT resources to deliver on strategic outcomes.”
The intelligent Commvault platform removes human error, with built-in intelligence and automation that enables recovery to any point of granularity, regardless of where the data or application is on-premises, in the cloud or a hybrid infrastructure.
Backup and disaster recovery as a service
Commvault has launched Metallic, a software solution and service that delivers data management and disaster recovery to any organisation on any platform.
Fourie explains that about two years ago, Commvault formulated a strategy to create a software as a service (SaaS) platform. Taking its 25 years of backup expertise, Commvault partnered with Microsoft to provide data management as a service to customers in Azure data centres.
“This is key to us in South Africa with our data security and local residency rules,” Fourie says.
“We have developed a simplified model that is easier for the customer to use, so they don’t need to develop skills in-house. And the easy-to-access technical support that helps users overcome the fear of using a new solution,” Fourie explains.
“Users can just focus on what they do, and we take care of all their data management and security.”
The fact that Metallic is a pay-as-you-go SaaS offering means that customers don’t have to invest anything in hardware and infrastructure to gain an enterprise-grade data protection solution.
“Because it is a new solution, developed by Commvault and Microsoft, it is not Commvault-lite or a watered-down version,” Mollett says. “Metallic has its own pedigree and built-in engineering that enables organisations to quickly deploy data protection. Customers have the ability to access their data and applications from anywhere, anytime, because Metallic is not bound by the physical limitations of the data centre.”
Data management is greatly simplified and largely automated, Mollett adds. And IT no longer has to manage and maintain the data backup platform because that is all done by the software service provider.
“For the CIO, it ticks all the boxes of always available enterprise-grade protection with minimum resource overhead plus high recovery and success rates,” Mollett adds.
“For the CFO, it’s an operational expense (opex), not an upfront capital expense (capex), so they can release budgets.
“And for the governance, risk and compliance (GRC) leaders, they gain automated operations and data insights while being able to control access and privacy.”
Because Metallic is a cloud-based service, it is accessible and affordable for companies of all sizes, Fourie points out.
“In the past, SMEs might have skimped on their data protection strategy because of prohibitive costs. But with Metallic’s pay-as-you-go model, they are able to be compliant at an affordable cost.”
“As we have learned very quickly in the last few weeks, if things go wrong, it’s good to know there’s a copy of the data where you can spin it up quickly.”
“This has got our SME and enterprise customers excited.”
The First Distribution connection
First Distribution (FD) is a long-time partner of both Commvault and Microsoft, and a leader in bringing Microsoft Azure to the local market.
Fourie says FD has been instrumental in helping Commvault to increase its footprint in South Africa and into the rest of Africa.
“And with First for Cloud, FD is one of a few distributors in the world that has cottoned on to the cloud model, offering billing and consumption flexibility as customers grow.”
“They have helped us to reach the traditional partner base and customers, and also helped us formulate our model and talk to partners we may never have come across.
“It’s fair to say that we rely quite heavily on FD in this market.”
Mollett adds that FD leads with Metallic in its market approach. “It is reassuring to us to see this faith and confidence in the Metallic platform.”
Partnering for success
Metallic is offered on First for Cloud, which allows partners to on-sell solutions to their customers. “FD is light years ahead of the rest of the market in this respect,” Fourie says. “First for Cloud offers value-adds that you can’t buy.”
Hassim Mohamed, Brand Manager for Commvault at First Distribution, says Metallic is a key solution for partners helping their customers move to the cloud.
“Customers are accelerating their move to the cloud, and it is key to have data protection on the edge.
“We are perfectly positioned to provide this, whether through the data centre, the cloud or a managed service model – we can offer them all.”
Metallic resides in the cloud, in Azure, and customers can access it either by pay per use or through a subscription.
Mohamed points out that customers so far range from SMMEs to large enterprise and every size in between, from all industry verticals. Managed service providers (MSPs) are also incorporating Metallic into their offerings.
South Africa is one of the first markets to launch Metallic, and Mollett says it has already seen fast growth.
“Watch this space: Metallic is the SaaS solution that organisations have been looking for,” Mollett concludes.