How To Backup And Protect Data In A Mobile World
According to MarketWatch, approximately every 3.5 seconds someone in America loses a cell phone. Similarly, other end-user edge devices like laptops and tablets are also prone to loss or theft – putting business data at risk and resulting in lost productivity. In fact, the sheer proliferation of end-user devices, (many users work with 4-5 devices each) puts business data at risk and is a clarion call for IT organizations to quickly adopt new models for protecting data on the edge synchronously, in real-time with minimal to no user intervention.
Data Exposure On The Edge
Legacy approaches to protecting data on the edge typically required end-users to proactively copy files to a file-server through a VPN connection. But this approach is flawed for several reasons. First, it assumes end-users will be disciplined enough to conduct frequent manual copies to protect their files. Recent studies have revealed that 30% of users have never conducted a backup at all so entrusting users to protect critical data could be a formula for disaster. Secondly, VPN connections can be cumbersome to use and the quality-of-service can be inconsistent; this can only serve to further dampen user enthusiasm for taking the time to regularly protect their data.
The Need For Real-Time Data Protection
The fact is that end-users are constantly updating their files and creating new documents from their end-point devices. Even if just a few hours elapse between the time users backup or save their data, there is still the possibility that a file could be accidentally deleted, corrupted or a device could be lost or stolen. This could result in several hours, days or weeks worth of lost productivity. Moreover, the chances of a data loss event occurring increases exponentially when hundreds or thousands of remote users are operating in the field.
In instances where remote workers are handling extremely time sensitive business documents, a data loss event could put revenue at risk and/or the reputation of the organization. Consequently, there is a need to protect this information more proactively in real-time, without requiring direct user intervention. Moreover, in addition to ensuring that business data will be protected, this also has the dual benefit of enhancing end-user productivity as changes to documents are captured and protected off-site. Should a user accidentally delete a file or lose their productivity device, the information would be protected.
Support For Tablets
To be sure, there are some laptop/desktop backup solutions that can transparently backup user data to ensure that data is at least backed up on a daily basis. But many of these solutions are not real-time from a data protection standpoint and most don’t support backup for endpoint devices like tablets and smartphones. In fact, since there are a plethora of keyboard options for tablets, these devices are increasingly being used for content creation. Therefore any endpoint data protection solution deployed today, needs to provide real-time protection for tablets and smartphones.
Lastly, many endpoint protection solutions backup everything on the device – operating system files, application binaries, etc; in addition to end-user documents. There are many reasons why capturing a full disk backup image is appropriate— to retain full system snapshots for data protection and compliance reasons, to protect and restore system configurations and all documents on a device, etc. However, items such as word documents, excel spreadsheets, powerpoint slides, PDF images, that change on a regular basis throughout the day and on multiple devices, need to be protected on a more frequent basis—in short, every time they are changed. So, there is a strong case to augment full system backup solutions with real-time document protection solutions.
End-User Reliant File Sync and Share
In recent years, many users have begun using consumer grade file sync and share services to protect their information. These services provide more flexibility than corporate file-server backups as they can be accessed via a public WiFi connection, without a VPN and can typically be used across any device. While this is certainly an improvement over VPN based backups, there are still multiple areas of exposure with using public file sync and share services. First, end-users have to remember to periodically copy or save their files into their file sync and share folder. Secondly, while WiFi is almost ubiquitous, there are still occasions where end-users will be out of range of a WiFi connection and 4G LTE is simply too expensive for data protection; in either instance, there is the potential for data loss.
Automating the Sync in File Sync and Share
Fortunately there are business/enterprise-grade file sync and share solutions available that provide real-time data protection and data encryption on all edge devices. These technologies enable IT to regain control over the protection of corporate data without placing any constraints on normal end-user workflow activities. Users can sync any folder on their desktop/laptop, tablet or smartphone and as files within these folders are created or updated, the sync and share application automatically synchronizes these changes in real-time to backend storage in the data center or in the cloud. In some cases, IT can automatically specify which end user folders will sync without the user having to intervene. In this manner, end-user data protection becomes a totally transparent, automated process that does not require any action on the part of the end-user or the IT administrator.
Furthermore, as document editing and creation becomes more commonplace on mobile devices, sync and share solutions with embedded document editing and annotation features make it easy for users to access, edit, and save documents without having to take manual steps to decide where to save documents.
Some of these offerings also synchronously share file changes and updates out to all the other edge devices simultaneously. Users don’t need to refresh their browser or their folder, instead the changes immediately appear in their shared copy of the file. This is particularly useful for facilitating user collaboration, as each member of the team is kept apprised of document changes as they happen in real-time. This feature can also be used as a mechanism to push corporate communiqués out en masse to potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of users across any edge device. This actually can be a better way to rapidly disseminate information to corporate employees in the field as email content can often be overlooked.
True enterprise grade file sync and share technology needs to be implemented to address the needs of today’s increasingly mobile user workforce. Data protection should be an embedded, synchronous real-time process that continuously protects user data across all their endpoint devices as a way of augmenting other protection approaches. It also should require little to no user administration and make protecting data a simple process that doesn’t require constant end-user intervention.
For example, users (or IT) should be able to select any and all folders they want to protect and only make that selection one-time in order for their critical files to be synchronously protected at all times. And, the mobile apps should provide embedded editing capability that always saves files back to their original location, even if offline. This last point is especially important because in the event that a users device falls out of range of an Internet or WiFi connection, the service will automatically sync document changes once a connection is re-established. On the other hand, banking on busy end-users to always remember to continually save their information is a potential recipe for disaster.
In addition to providing synchronization as the core data protection function of a file sync and share service, enterprise grade data encryption is an essential element for securing data; particularly if a device were to fall in the wrong hands. File sync and share technology also shouldn’t saddle IT storage or backup managers with yet another burdensome administrative chore. In other words, end-users should require little if any support from IT personnel. The service should also be able to scale to support the needs of large enterprise environments and be simple to deploy – into the hundreds of thousands of remote users. In this manner, businesses can be confident that corporate data on the edge is always being protected and the service can meet their needs well into the future.
Syncplicity is a client of Storage Switzerland