Data outside the data centre
Data at branch offices need to be managed with tighter discipline.
The data centre gets the spotlight when organisations look to improve their management and storage of data, but a growing proportion of the information in the average enterprise is found at its branch offices and on end-user devices.
Security vendor Symantec, for example, estimates that around 46% of the data in most enterprises is found outside their data centres. The volume of data outside the safe perimeter of the data centre is growing at a rapid rate, thanks to the rise of mobility and cloud computing.
In addition, many companies still maintain Windows file servers and low-end storage arrays in branch offices, so users can access applications and data without having network bottlenecks slow them down. This exposes companies to both data storage risks and inefficiencies.
Since the IT skills are mostly centralised at the data centre, branch offices are often not equipped to run storage as securely and efficiently as data centres are, says Brent Lees, UK-based senior product manager at IT performance optimisation company Riverbed Technology.
One problem is wastage. Infrastructure sprawl at branch offices demands extra budget for the staff and tools to manage it. Many branches achieve capacity usage of only around 20% to 30% at each branch, where they could spend far less money on storage if usage was optimised, says Lees.
In addition, a lack of IT skills at the branch office often means backup processes and other basics of data governance are not managed tightly enough. "You may sit with what we call 'data in scary places', where data may be threatened by external factors such as the risk of crime, floods or fires," says Lees.
You may sit with what we call 'data in scary places', where data may be threatened by external factors such as the risk of crime, floods or fires.
Against this backdrop, the trend is for companies to move their branch office data to a central, virtualised server so they can control and manage it better, he adds. New storage delivery technology combined with WAN technology allows centralised data to be projected as needed to branch locations so that users can access it as quickly as if it was on the LAN.
This approach helps organisations to mitigate against the risk of data loss, as well as leverage the provisioning and data protection tools they have already invested in for their data centres.
By consolidating data centres, enterprises are able to reduce the complexity and cost of running multiple data centres, says Lees. Once the data is in a virtualised data centre, it can be supported more efficiently, the system is more flexible, and typical storage utilisation can be boosted to 50% or higher.