Maui Teaches Us Why We Need to Change Our Data Protection Strategies

Needing to protect all data from disasters while bringing costs down means a one-size-fits-all DR strategy no longer works.

5 Min Read
Maui Teaches Us Why We Need to Change Our Data Protection Strategies
(Credit: Dennis Frates / Alamy Stock Photo)

Spending Christmas week in Maui this year reminded me of the lasting impact disasters have long after the event itself. Months after the Lahaina fires on the Maui South coast, far from Lahaina, we met many people who had either lost property themselves or had family members still trying to piece their lives back together. As resolute, resilient, and fiercely independent as the people of Hawaii are, it was easy to see the toll on businesses and people alike.

Disasters are rising, and more businesses today must be prepared for disasters than they were a decade ago. Climate disasters are becoming more frequent and more potent. The year 2023 had more billion-dollar-plus climate disasters than any other year, costing the U.S. alone an estimated eighty-one billion dollars. Man-made disasters like cyberattacks from ransomware are also becoming more sophisticated, brazen, and routine.

Add to this aging infrastructure that is more prone to failure, such as the downed power lines that are a suspected cause of the Maui fires. There is also greater political uncertainty in many parts of the world today, with more wars erupting and lasting longer than a decade ago and a record number of governments in potential upheaval. In 2024, more than half the world's population—4.2 billion citizens across approximately 65 countries- will go to the polls, according to Time.

A new age for disaster recovery planning

This led me to realize that while the threat and risk of disasters are growing rapidly, our data protection schemes have barely evolved. Most organizations think of backups as the core of their data protection strategy, with some disaster recovery added in for the most critical data. This strategy made sense when most of the world did not experience disasters, and only some places, like areas with a high likelihood of tornadoes or tsunamis, had to worry about disaster recovery more routinely. A decade ago, a business had a greater risk of a user accidentally deleting data and needing to recover it from a backup than the likelihood of having to suddenly migrate a data center within hours because a war just erupted.  

But in 2024, this is no longer true. Today, the frequency of disasters, the likelihood of disasters, and the potential impact of disasters have all increased substantially. And the threat of disasters is getting more dire every day. Adding to this, 90% of our data today is unstructured – large, scattered, unwieldy, and expensive to manage and protect.

Leaders must rethink their data protection strategy

In 2024, our tried-and-true data protection strategies are all wrong. As a Gartner analyst recently remarked, "If backups are so great, why then has every company that has paid ransom had backups?" This is because backups are not the most effective disaster recovery strategy. We now need to prioritize disaster recovery, and we need to find an affordable way to create DR for unstructured data that is separate from backups. We can no longer simply rely on backups as our primary means of data protection.

Today’s disaster recovery, particularly for unstructured data, breaks some historical rules:

  • Mirroring all data no longer works: Traditional disaster recovery strategies, especially for file data, involved creating an identical mirror of the storage architecture in a remote site. This like-for-like mirror was a feasible approach when data volumes were small, but at the size of today’s unstructured data, this is a huge expense that many companies find infeasible. Disaster recovery strategies need to be more nuanced and not require like-to-like mirroring and replication.

  • Must have some DR protection for all data: Given the high cost of DR, many organizations are silently choosing not to replicate increasingly larger volumes of unstructured data. However, this is a mistake as the exposure from disasters is climbing. All data must have some replication in the event of a disaster. Not having DR for some data is too risky.

  • DR costs must come down as data grows: Unstructured data is growing explosively while budgets remain relatively flat. To have DR for all data, the cost of DR needs to come down significantly. 

The need for a tiered DR strategy

Needing to protect all data from disasters while bringing costs down means a one-size-fits-all DR strategy no longer works. A tiered DR strategy that does not require like-to-like replication takes into account that some data, such as unused cold data, can be replicated to a less expensive DR location, such as object storage in the cloud. Creating a tiered data replication and recovery strategy ensures that all data is recoverable during a disaster, but not all data needs to be instantly recovered with high performance.

IT leaders can create more sustainable data management policies that reduce our carbon footprint by reducing how much resources we consume to store and protect data. This is possible by right-sizing data management vis-a-vis routinely identifying and deleting obsolete and unwanted data.

Maui reminds us of how our most cherished places are sadly also often the most fragile and why planning for disasters is no longer a luxury but an imperative.

Krishna Subramanian is the COO and Co-founder of Komprise.

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About the Author(s)

Krishna Subramanian, COO, Komprise

Krishna Subramanian is the co-founder, president, and COO atKomprise, the leader in analytics-driven data management software. Subramanian is no stranger to founding, building, merging, and acquiring tech companies — she has built three successful venture-backed IT businesses and held senior leadership positions at major companies, such as Sun Microsystems and Citrix. With 21+ years of experience as a senior software executive, Subramanian has successfully generated over $500M+ new revenues, with proven industry expertise in SaaS, cloud computing, and data management. Subramanian holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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