Sep 30 2022

How to Choose the Right Backup When Your Agency Functions in Multiple Environments

Data management solutions help organize files in multicloud and hybrid environments.

Federal agencies have made cloud a priority in their efforts to drive modernization. Cloud technology makes IT resources more accessible and processes more efficient, but it raises new challenges, especially for backup and recovery.

“When people move into the cloud, they assume that a lot of the ancillary things that were done in their data center are automatically provisioned within the cloud — backup and recovery being one,” says Richard Breakiron, senior director of strategic initiatives for federal at data management software company Commvault.

In fact, that is often not the case. In order to make effective use of cloud services, agencies need to rethink their backup strategies with an eye toward intelligent data management.

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Cloud Providers and Agencies Share Responsibility for Data

Most cloud providers operate on a shared-responsibility model.

“The cloud service provider specifically outlines that information and data are the customer’s responsibility under this model. While the provider may use that data to deliver application services like email, the customer is accountable for ensuring backup and recovery,” Breakiron says.

A cloud provider will retain data for as long as it’s needed for operational purposes — typically, a couple of weeks — then delete it. That presents a significant risk for agencies that fail to take this into account as they strategize their cloud use.

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“We saw a major government agency lose 40,000 email accounts for which they had no backup. It was just a mistake on their part, but it was gone,” Breakiron says. “If you are not backing up, you can lose data to mistakes or malware, and you have no way to recover in the event of a ransomware attack.”

With an intelligent data management solution, agencies can safeguard their backup effectively, even in a multicloud or hybrid environment.

Backup and Recovery Systems Require Data Categorization

Effective backup and recovery start with understanding the data. It isn’t enough just to periodically dump massive stores of information. Rather, agencies need to sort and categorize that data.

“You need to know how important that data is to your overall organization. Not all data is created equal,” Breakiron says. For example, “nuclear command and control is more important than Fort Belvoir golf course scheduling.”

“You need to know that, so that if you do get attacked you know what to restore first,” he adds. “It’s also about longevity, how long you want to keep this particular data safe.”

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In a modernized solution, software reads and interprets data and creates a comprehensive index from metatags. An intelligent data management solution applies automated processes for categorizing, sorting and prioritizing data, and labels the data for future reference.

Ideally, such a solution offers complete coverage across on-premises and cloud workloads. Delivered as a service, intelligent data management supports flexible data recovery, with advanced restoration options and granular search capability.

That granularity is one of the key benefits of this approach. Suppose a defense agency has a classified data spillage incident, where a sensitive document is incorrectly moved into an unclassified system.

“You don’t want to delete a month’s worth of data. You want to go get that single file or that email and erase it off your backup,” Breakiron says.

Richard Breakiron
When people move into the cloud, they assume that a lot of the ancillary things that were done in their data center are automatically provisioned within the cloud — backup and recovery being one.”

Richard Breakiron Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives for Federal, Commvault

Data Management Solutions Help Agencies Optimize File Storage and Recovery

An intelligent data management solution empowers administrators to pinpoint and remove only problem data. It will also indicate where the data originated on the operational system, so that this, too, can be deleted if necessary.

There’s a financial benefit as well. “Backups require storage, and you need an intelligent data management plan to keep those costs as low as possible. With file optimization, an intelligent system will get rid of all the duplicate data, which is a big cost savings,” Breakiron says.

Overall, an intelligent data management solution “provides protection of critical data and information, with the ability to rapidly restore in the event of any interruption to service, and lays the foundation for using data and information for actionable insight,” he says.

For agencies looking to improve their backup and recovery in a multicloud or hybrid environment, Commvault’s Metallic Software as a Service solution offers a way forward, delivering intelligent management for any data, regardless of format, across any infrastructure.

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With a FedRAMP High rating, Metallic meets the federal gold standard for secure SaaS capabilities. It offers a single dashboard view for protecting cloud and on-premises data, putting a comprehensive data management architecture in place.

“With Metallic, customers can rapidly deploy and back up their workloads, resulting in faster time-to-value. Plus, Metallic features a separate security domain. This means, even if customer environments are compromised, Metallic as a service would still be operational,” Breakiron says.

Agencies looking to move in this direction will want to first identify, categorize and prioritize their data holdings. Commvault can assist that that assessment, which can be a heavy lift. Its experts will help organizations understand their data environment and categorize the data from a security standpoint, Breakiron says.

With intelligent data management, agencies can easily back up and retrieve data. They can meet their regulatory obligations for data retention and will be better positioned to respond in the event of a malware or ransomware attack — even in a complex multicloud or hybrid environment.

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