Can You Make Better Use of Your Backup Data?

By Richard Vining posted 10-31-2019 14:07

If you are using any of the traditional backup applications to protect your data, the backup copies – and there are probably many of them – are simply consuming storage space, waiting for something bad to happen. If those copies are on spinning disk they are also consuming electricity. This immense amount of data, and the costs to maintain it, are simply an insurance policy against the many things that can, but probably won’t, go wrong.

To make any use of this backup data you will need to restore it to some other storage, creating yet another copy. This is because the backup applications store the data in a proprietary format that only they can read.
In a world where data is the ‘new oil’, this situation is a terrible waste of precious resources. Imagine what you could do if you had unfettered access to your backup data. You could use it for:
  • Big data analytics and decision making. This would be an improvement over using just the current production data as backup copies can offer previous versions of files.
  • E-discovery and audits. Support data search requests from the legal, financial, human resources and other departments.
  • Governance and compliance. Find and act on instances of personally identifiable information (PII) in support of requirements such as “the right to be forgotten” in Article 17 of the European Unions General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). More on this below.
Hitachi Vantara offers a solution that unlocks the value of the copies of data that you’re keeping, rightfully, in case something goes wrong. It is based on Hitachi Data Instance Director (HDID ), which performs incremental-forever (new and changes files only) backups of popular file systems and stores the copies in their native file format on Hitachi Content Platform (HCP ), our highly-scalable, self-protecting, and future-proof object storage system.

When HDID writes the data to HCP, it adds the system metadata about each file – such as the file’s owner, creation and modification dates, path and more – to create an object on HCP. Since the data is stored natively, it can be accessed directly by tools and people that have authenticated access to it. One such tool, Hitachi Content Intelligence , can index the backup files and add custom metadata. These backup copies can also be a huge data source for business intelligence tools such as Hitachi Vantara’s Pentaho Platform software.

To learn more about this solution, and about insights into the trends of data reuse in the market, please join Enterprise Strategy Group Sr. Analyst Christophe Bertrand and I for a 30-minute webcast on or after November 6 at noon ET.

Now, back to something serious to think about: GDPR and other data privacy regulations sweeping the globe. In the GDPR right to be forgotten provision, if an EU citizen requests that you delete all of their PII that you and your data processing partners are storing, you need to delete it or make it totally unusable within a reasonable amount of time – assumed to be 30 days. It is, for all practical purposes, impossible to comply with this requirement when PII is stored in traditional backup repositories. You can’t simply crack into the backup repository and take your action there; doing so would break the backup data set and make the rest of the data unusable.

Think about it. If you received such a request, would you be able to figure out where those backup copies are, restore them to somewhere, removed the required PII, and then put the rest of the backup data back into the backup system? What if you receive hundreds of these requests each month?

Many (most) organizations in this situation are ignoring it, which will be fine until that data does get restored. The data subject will then start getting phone calls and emails (or worse, targeted ads!) again, will raise a complaint with the authorities, and then … let’s just say, “there will be lawyers.”

With the Hitachi Vantara solution described above, you can avoid all this stress and meet your obligations under data privacy regulations such as the right to be forgotten. You will be able to easily find and take action on the backup copies that are stored on HCP, without performing any type of restore operation. Deleting or editing the files has no impact on the other files in the backup set.

Simple. Easy. Cost-effective.

Rich Vining is a Sr. WW Product Marketing Manager for Data Protection and Copy Data Management Solutions at Hitachi Vantara and has been publishing his thoughts on data storage and data management since the mid-1990s. The contents of this blog are his own.