28th January celebrates Data Privacy Day, marking an increasingly important reminder in raising awareness as to how critical it is to properly protect digital assets from cyber attacks and other potential threats to data loss.
The pandemic situation and its economic consequences have only magnified the challenges in front of businesses, non-profit organisations, and individuals. More users are looking to back up their data, with the assurance that this can be done in a secure and reliable way.
This article explores industry shifts in data protection, an outlook for the next year, key challenges and vulnerabilities organisations are facing in this area, as well as the consequential upshift on the part of industry vendors in technology advancements and the importance of data protection education.
Shifts in the data protection industry
There is no denying that the events of the last two years have had a tremendous impact on the data protection industry. As major cyber attacks occurred over 2021, organisations have had to think on their feet and many have had to learn to adapt the hard way.
According to Statistica, among the UK companies that were victims of a cyber attack in the last year (as many employees switched to working remotely), over a quarter experienced a cyber security breach at least once a week. Given the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, overall demand for data protection solutions has increased. Most SMBs and enterprises now use a broader set of IT tools, already responding to the issues they have been facing through 2020. The requirements to have data properly protected have been amplified by an on-going trend of moving business apps to the cloud, and by the recent shift towards remote work.
The increase of home-based working on a large scale will continue to drive requirements for data protection that includes workstations and cloud applications, such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Security features and resiliency in varying networking conditions are now seen as requirements where we can expect to see increasing demand. We can also look forward to a greater number of hybrid features being added to hardware-based backup appliances, along with capabilities to securely store a second copy of backup data in the cloud.
Challenges and solutions
The most intractable issues in data protection involve networking and security. Remote employees need to access their working environment, which can be achieved by usage of a VPN or another network technology. However, sometimes it is a challenge to back up the computers of the remote workers. There can also be situations when remote employees use outdated software with known vulnerabilities, while accessing a corporate network. To address these issues, organisations should embrace new behavioural routines, including reviewing and improving their security policies, and reconsidering their networking structure. They should also look at adjusting the access rights of user groups and specific users.
A shift in individuals’ attitudes as a result of education on the importance of data protection and the impact of data loss is a vital element in ensuring an effective data protection strategy. Increased awareness as to data vulnerability causes and the likelihood of a cyber attack helps ensure workforce staff readiness to adopt the necessary changes in behaviours required to ensure the proper protection of valuable business data.
The latest developments in data backup protection
The data protection industry is highly competitive and has seen many positive trends. One to note is that several vendors have begun offering packages that include adjacent IT solutions, such as security, monitoring or networking, along with their core data protection products. Others have begun to deliver low cost storage for backup data. The increase in competition has had the knock-on effect of making data protection more affordable for end users, combined with the extra value of a broader feature set and protected platforms.
Ransomware has been an incredibly costly and constantly evolving threat to businesses over the past two years. It remains the biggest threat to data, including backups, to this day. The safety of backup data, particularly against ransomware, depends on each business and the effectiveness of the data protection measures it has in place. Backups are generally not protected from ransomware or other cyber attacks, highlighting the urgent need for additional protection.
An effective anti-ransomware backup strategy should employ data immutability, ransomware detection tools, and other proven techniques to minimise breaches and ensure rapid recovery in case of an attack. With that said, malicious attacks don’t always come from the outside. Therefore, to maintain high availability, it’s also vital for businesses to consider the possibility of an attack originating from within their infrastructure, for instance, involving some of their own staff.
Considerations of data protection for hybrid cloud
It’s no surprise that so many organisations have adopted a hybrid cloud approach for their data operations, considering the advantages of that approach. Many businesses have successfully reduced overhead, improved cost-effectiveness, and enhanced availability while keeping their data safe by simultaneously utilising private and public clouds. However, the hybrid cloud model also carries some noteworthy disadvantages, such as the security risks associated with data transfer between clouds and the considerable challenges of cloud management.
To reap the benefits of the hybrid cloud approach without major setbacks, businesses should focus on efficient data distribution and cloud management, ensuring that critical data remains in the more secure private clouds. IT professionals with a solid understanding of different cloud infrastructures can help create a powerful hybrid cloud strategy that minimises the risks of data loss and helps optimise resource allocation.