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February 19, 2015

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ICG-cloud-backup-remote-office

Why Cloud Backup Makes Sense for Remote Offices

More and more organizations are geographically dispersed, from branch or satellite offices to remote workforces operating from home. That means more and more corporate data, which doubles in volume every 18 months, is being created outside of company headquarters. Much of this data is mission-critical and must be protected and backed up regularly.

 

However, remote office/branch office (ROBO) backup is much different than data backup at the primary data center and presents a new set of challenges. ROBOs rarely have the dedicated IT staff, infrastructure, bandwidth, clearly defined best practices, and regular testing that exists at company headquarters. As a result, application performance and user productivity tend to suffer. ROBOs will often compensate by deploying their own solutions on a smaller scale, but having disparate systems becomes difficult to manage and scale. ROBO environments are typically less secure, making them more susceptible to data loss and compliance issues.

 

When developing a ROBO backup strategy, organizations need to understand the potential impact on business operations if the backup strategy fails instead of waiting for something to go wrong. Approach data backup as you would with your primary data center. Classify and prioritize data. Plan for the worst and identify the various causes for disaster, including server and storage failure, human error, data corruption, natural disasters, and security breaches. Define recovery objectives for all applications and data by analyzing the how long it would take for operations to be impacted if data or services are lost. Then determine how prepared you are to meet those objectives and regularly test your backup strategy so you can plug any holes.

 

Traditionally there have been two general options for a ROBO backup strategy. Onsite backup typically involves software that backs up data to disk, which is faster, or tape, which is cheaper. A centralized backup model uses remote backup tools to back up ROBO data to a centralized site over the corporate WAN.

 

An increasingly popular third option is cloud backup. Cloud backup uses software to automatically gather, compress, encrypt and send a copy of data via the Internet to a service provider’s offsite server. Instead of purchasing and maintaining a backup system and worrying about under- or over-provisioning storage capacity, an organization pays a monthly fee for virtually unlimited capacity from a service provider. Scalable, elastic resource allocation makes it easy to handle uneven data usage patterns and high data volume, and the organization only pays for storage used. Cloud backup is also ideal for organizations that lack the IT staff, infrastructure, budget and bandwidth required for centralized backup.

 

A service provider’s security is typically far superior to ROBOs, and the provider’s infrastructure is monitored 24/7 and tested frequently. On-demand data restoration supports optimal recovery objectives, and users have the flexibility to access data on any device from any location, which is especially valuable for ROBO users. New software and functionality can be added or updated instantly without requiring a ROBO’s limited IT staff to worry about each rollout.

 

ICG’s managed cloud backup solution keeps ROBO data secure and accessible while reducing capital and operational costs. Let us show you how our flexible, scalable solution brings the reliability and performance of primary data center backup to your branch offices and remote locations.

 

 

February 13, 2015

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ICG-Cloud-storage-or-NAS

Cloud Storage, NAS or Both?

The simultaneous explosions of big data and mobility have organizations scrambling to figure out the best way to store and back up data. While the amount of data being produced and the number of devices being used has skyrocketed, storage and backup strategies haven’t been able to keep up. This can have a significant impact on performance, productivity, customer service and disaster recovery.

 

There are two primary storage options for small to midsize businesses:

 

Cloud-based storage has emerged as an appealing option because capital expenses are minimal and storage management becomes the responsibility of the cloud service provider. The provider is responsible for purchasing, maintaining and updating the storage infrastructure. By storing and backing up data remotely, organizations can avoid the cost of constantly adding storage capacity while improving disaster recovery. However, latency and bandwidth issues are common drawbacks of the cloud, especially with the high-performance demands of primary storage.

 

Network-attached storage (NAS) is a storage appliance that has its own IP address and is connected to the network. Primarily used for file sharing and storage, some modern NAS devices can also be used as multimedia, print, email and database servers. To enhance disaster recovery, NAS products can be configured for data backup and monitoring, and a failing disk drive can be “hot-swapped” with a new drive without shutting down the NAS.

 

There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating cloud storage and NAS:

 

  • NAS typically costs more upfront because you have to purchase, install and configure the device. As storage demands increase, you’ll probably have to purchase larger hard drives or add more hard drives. Without careful planning, you could end up buying more than you need. The ongoing monthly cost of cloud storage may be more expensive over time, but you’ll never have to purchase more hardware.

 

  • The cloud offers virtually unlimited storage capacity. When you need more storage, you upgrade your plan. While NAS allows for hard drives to be replaced or added, each hard drive does have finite capacity.

 

  • Features and Expertise. As mentioned previously, NAS devices have an impressive list of valuable features and capabilities. On the other hand, cloud storage enables you to tap into other cloud-based solutions such as compression and de-duplication, both of which can improve storage efficiency. You can also take advantage of a cloud service provider’s expertise and around-the-clock service.

 

  • Security and Control. NAS enables you to host and control your own data, and to use encryption tools and user access controls to secure your information. This can be a double-edged sword as data security requires significant IT resources and expertise. With the cloud, security is the responsibility of the provider, but you must trust an outside party with your data.

 

Instead of choosing between cloud storage and NAS, you may want to consider a hybrid approach. For example, mission-critical data that is accessed and modified most often can be stored in a NAS device, while archival data is stored in the cloud. Many vendors also offer hybrid solutions.

Developing an efficient storage strategy without compromising performance is as complicated as it is important. Let ICG help you analyze your IT environment and recommend a storage solution that meets your specific storage needs now and in the future.

February 6, 2015

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ICG-Big-Data

Big Data Isn’t Just for Big Companies Anymore

Ever since big data became a big buzzword, the assumption has been that big data would only deliver value to big companies. After all, only a large enterprise would have the resources required to effectively gather, store and analyze data.

 

But small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) have quite a bit of data of their own. SMBs also have more access to technology that enables them to take advantage of the data-driven insights provided by big data. As a result, many experts expect big data and related data analytics to play a much more prominent role with SMBs as early as this year.

 

Big data is largely defined by the three Vs – volume, velocity and variety. A high volume of data, collected through desktop and mobile devices, sensors and various Internet-connected products, is continuously flowing in real-time at a high velocity. This data comes in a variety of formats, including traditional, structured data that you would find in a database, as well as unstructured data such as text documents, email, video and audio. The volume, velocity and variety of data are increasing, and organizations large and small have been challenged to manage inconsistent data flows and process complex data effectively.

 

Data analytics is the science of examining data to draw conclusions that enable the organization to achieve business goals. Sophisticated technology is used to extract, categorize and analyze data related to business operations, customer behavior, purchasing patterns and other factors. By applying various qualitative and quantitative techniques, data can be used to make more informed decisions that drive competitive advantages. Organizations can maximize operational efficiency, identify trends and growth opportunities, enhance and develop new products, and improve the customer experience.

Thanks to the emergence of big data and the ability to use data analytics to create business value, data-driven decision making is becoming imperative for SMBs. Traditional analytics and data reporting methods are no longer adequate. Sophisticated technology, constant Internet connectivity and mobility allow leaders to make decisions based on current data, not historical data. They can rely more on fact and less on instinct. No longer a “nice to have,” big data is becoming an essential strategic business asset. Research has shown that data-driven insights allow organizations to outperform competitors and increase revenue, market value and profitability.

 

SMBs looking to leverage big data need to document a detailed strategy. Get a handle on the kind of data being created and the sources of that data. Identify what problems you want data to solve and what challenges you want data to help you overcome. Then determine what kind of data is most likely to help you achieve those goals. Evaluate and trial various technological solutions, and consider the pros and cons of on-premises and cloud-based tools. Of course, make sure the tools you choose have security features that are capable of protecting your data.

 

Big data is capable of making small companies more successful. Data analytics tools that were once designed for highly trained analysts can now be used by virtually any business professional. Let ICG show you how to use big data to make better decisions and develop game-changing competitive advantages.