Ezat Dayeh, SE manager UK&I at Cohesity explains why modern business demands a modern approach to data management, not a Frankenstein’s monster of legacy IT products

Few will admit it but up to a third of the IT employed by the average business is likely to be based on legacy technologies, be that hardware, software or even some services. Moreover, operating and maintaining that legacy could be swallowing up most of the IT budget and, just as worryingly, slowing digital transformation. Indeed, in a recent survey, 80 per cent of respondents reported having to scale back digital plans because of issues with legacy systems and data technologies.

So, given the cost and the emphasis placed on digital transformation you might reasonably expect companies across the board to be pushing ahead with plans to rid themselves of their legacy burden and move on…

If only it were that simple!

Despite being held back by their legacy IT, in practice most businesses are overly cautious and tend to tinker and tweak rather than take decisive action. Whilst happy to host new developments in the cloud, for example, most prefer to find ways of extending the life of their legacy applications rather than starting again from scratch. Partly because of the cost and complexity of the task, but equally for fear of the disruption that wholesale migration to something better might cause.

Unfortunately, it does not take much to expose the flaws in this softly-softly approach. An approach that, despite all the patching and tweaking, leaves companies reliant on ageing IT still totally unsuited to meeting the demands of the modern digital business or the myriad emerging threats and regulations that go with it.

Not your problem?

Perhaps you do not think it applies to your business. I would suggest you take this quick test:

Q1. Is your data shared across applications or does each app have its own dedicated resources? If the latter, you have got silos and real problems likely only to get worse by pushing new apps into the cloud.

Q2. How many copies of your data are there? Do you know where copies are kept, who owns and manages them, who has access and what they cost to maintain? IDC research has previously estimated that up to 60 percent of average storage budgets are spent on copy management alone.

Q3. Are you confident of being able to meet compliance requirements? When you have just said do not know where your data is, who is responsible for it or how it is used?

Q4. Do you use multiple products to handle backup, archiving and disaster recovery? Answer yes and chances are you have yet more silos and a fragmented data protection strategy that is costly, complex and prone to failure.

Q5. Are you prepared for a ransomware attack? You may not know where your data is, but criminals have ways of, not only finding it, but making it unusable. Backups are the last line of defence but of little value if unverified for quality, incomplete and, as is happening more often now, compromised as part of an attack.

Time for a change

So, what is the answer? As usual, there is no, one-size-fits-all, solution. Throwing everything out and starting again would be the gold standard but, as already outlined, few companies have the nerve, budget or manpower to take that leap. Some will aim for it, and possibly achieve the same results in carefully managed stages, but for the majority a less brutal solution is required. A solution which concentrates on delivering modern data management, giving priority to bringing legacy data, and how it is allocated, used and managed, into the modern digital world.

We are not talking about tinkering or trying to paper over the legacy cracks but taking fundamental action to address data management issues. And that starts with understanding the scope of the problem. Identifying why, where and how data is stored and looking for ways to consolidate, integrate and share those stores to eliminate silos, bring dark data into the light and tackle, at source, issues around copy management.

It also involves taking a long hard look at backup, archiving and disaster recovery and discarding legacy solutions in favour of technologies better able to meet the performance, availability, security and compliance needs of always-on modern IT.

It will not be easy but implementing a modern data management strategy isn’t as complex as might be imagined. A lot of it is common sense and there are plenty of tools to be had which will make the process a lot easier to complete. For a risk-averse business it also has the advantage of being a lot less disruptive compared to wholesale migration from legacy to modern technologies. And that, in turn, makes it more likely to get approved and implemented rather than kicked back into the long grass deemed not mission critical, where currently most plans to deal with legacy IT lie.

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