Developing or refining a cloud data management strategy is critical to a business that relies on the cloud for backup or disaster recovery. If you don’t have a cloud data management strategy, your business could be severely impacted. Here are five key elements to consider in a cloud data management strategy — and the questions you should be asking your IT team and the business.

While the C-suite may conceptually support migrating applications and data to the cloud, it takes a certain amount of groundwork to craft a cloud strategy. Especially one that includes a defined approach for data management and protection that will satisfy the enterprise’s desire for a more agile, efficient, secure and reliable cloud operation. Close alignment is needed between the C-suite, the cloud architect and IT team to move from an agreed cloud data management strategy to successful execution.

So far, it appears enterprises aren’t laying the groundwork that’s required. Research firm IDC conducted a survey of enterprise IT professionals and found less than 5 percent believed their organization had an optimized cloud strategy.

This is even more concerning when you consider the growing complexity of today’s cloud-driven environments. As many as 82 percent of organizations use multiple clouds, with the average being eight between public and private cloud environments.2

With the cloud as the driver behind many digital transformation initiatives, this complexity will continue to rise. In fact, IDC reports that spending on digital transformation will reach $2.0 trillion in 2020 with the fastest growing technology category being cloud infrastructure (29.4 percent CAGR).3

The shocking conclusion is that while enterprises are opening their wallets to cloud spending, very few have a well-developed cloud strategy, including data management, to protect their cloud investments and the valuable data they store.

Less than 5% believe their organization has an optimized cloud strategy.IDC, September 2016

Your Cloud Data Management Strategy in 5 Steps

Whether your enterprise is just starting its cloud deployment, has begun strategic thinking, or knows the current strategy is lacking, consider the impact of the following points. These five elements, and their related questions, will give you the insight you need to help prevent costly failures in your execution plan. With a solid data management plan, you can help support digital transformation and make your cloud a more fully utilized, competitive business tool.

  1.  Rate Your Overall Data Recovery Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Data backup and recovery SLAs need to be consistent, whether on-premises or in the cloud. You must also have confidence in the reliability of recovering data from the cloud, on demand, should a disruptive event occur that makes onsite recovery unfeasible.If recovery from the cloud takes longer than needed, if SLAs are getting tighter, or if you’re running a hybrid cloud operation with inconsistent SLAs, it’s time to improve your SLA performance and consistency. Determine where the lag is, in terms of recovery, and implement new recovery strategies to overcome it. Also, if you haven’t tested your backup and recovery operations, it is critical to conduct these reliability tests before a disaster recovery need arises. Consider these questions:What SLAs are required for each workload?Are these SLAs achievable using current data recovery processes?When was the last time this data recovery strategy was tested and how did it perform? What would you change or update in the data recovery strategy?
  2.  Get a Clear Picture of Data Security and Governance. Security challenges, including data breaches and data loss, are the primary concern for organizations considering cloud deployment. An Interop ITX research reports rates security the number one concern (51 percent) for enterprises using private or hybrid clouds, with performance second (29 percent).4But in fact, it’s failure due to human error that can lead to the greatest cloud security risks. The same report notes that “Cloud providers like AWS subject themselves to far more stringent security audits and controls than most on-premises data centers, so the biggest risks lay with poorly-designed applications and poor controls around access to systems and information that are controlled by organizations themselves.” To help ensure that your cloud data strategy is secure and aligned with your data governance policies, ask your teams:Is the data secured across multiple clouds and workloads, using centralized authentication, authorization, and encryption key management?Are you applying centralized business policies and controls to govern cloud usage, helping ensure data is created, used and disposed of properly?Are you meeting data governance standards with cloud operations? Whether your cloud is, public, private or a combination, governance must be consistent.Is your team applying active governance to data creation, based on content and context, rather than applying methods after the data is created?
  3.  Gain Greater Data Management Control. Enterprises love the cloud for scaling up workloads. Without effective insight, the cloud can be contributing to inefficiencies rather than an agile workflow. In looking at your planned cloud deployment, consider:Do you have a sufficient, global view of data –stored in cloud and other locations – to know what is being managed? Can you confirm if internal and regulatory requirements are being met?Has IT deployed a single index for all data, to let you know what data you have, where it is, who owns it, and who has access to it?Can you search across all locations, seeing both structured and unstructured data?Do you have a unified data management operation that supports efficient governance, compliance and discovery on demand?
  4.  Fully Realize the Cost Benefits of the Cloud. While cost savings can rank behind scalability and performance as a cloud computing benefit, the reality is cost can be a concern. Part of any smart cloud strategy must be a hard look maximizing spend. Strategic cloud data management strategies will help control costs. Consider these cost-saving operations:Optimize for price, location and access patterns by automatically moving data between tiers of cloud storage.Reduce infrastructure needs (no cloud gateways, for example) and reduce the risk of data loss through deep cloud data management integration.Implement self-service control to provision compute and storage resources in a public cloud while retaining control over budget, scale and location.
  5.  Employ Freedom and Flexibility. One of the most strategic benefits of the cloud is the ability to enable greater freedom and flexibility. As your business goals evolve, you need to have the option to embrace new technologies easily and without added costs.Your cloud data management strategy must support this need for agility by offering secure data portability across multiple public clouds, as well as private and on-premises infrastructure. By selecting cloud data management solutions that are truly vendor-agnostic, you can move workloads as market and business conditions warrant.

Follow these five steps to improve your cloud data management strategy and you’ll continue to achieve your recovery, security and governance goals while retaining IT efficiency and control. As a result, you can prevent costly failures and find new value for the cloud as a competitive business tool.

5 Steps to Develop Your Cloud Data Management Strategy