Security Shredding and Storage - a shredding industry publication
by Todd Smith

At the recent National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) expo in Anaheim, California, many attendees expressed an interest in expanding their services into the data protection industry. This is largely driven by their clients expressing the need to improve their data protection protocols throughout the organization’s information lifecycle. Information destruction firms can provide a viable solution due to their information security focus—that is, if they have a facility and staff capable of protecting information in storage. Of course, data backup methods and technologies are always evolving, and it pays to look ahead to see where the trends are leading.

A recent survey conducted by Dimension Data asked CIOs all over the world about their attitudes toward outsourcing IT services. “Our survey indicates a widespread desire to reduce reliance on internal IT management,” said Scott Petty, services executive at Dimension Data. CIOs also reported that clients have higher expectations for reliability and the quality of service they receive from IT operations than in past years, which means they expect more from the vendors to whom they have outsourced these services. This trend represents an opportunity for top performing service providers to expand from data destruction into data protection services, since the demand for such services is on the rise.

An important trend to watch is the evolving way digital information is stored and accessed. While computer tape backup programs will continue to be utilized for years to come by most conscientious companies, there is an on-going migration from tape-based storage to near-line disk storage, or what is known as a disk-to-disk (D2D) system. Virtual tape library (VTL) systems are essentially D2D systems with software that better uses the servers and segments backup data onto the second disk as if it were writing the data to tape. Many organizations are utilizing disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) architecture to write some data to tape, but the trend is toward keeping more and more data on near-line disks to speed the retrieval of the required data. As hard drive storage costs decrease and data volumes increase, it is almost certain this trend will continue.

Many of the shrewd commercial information management and destruction companies are already offering their clients offsite storage and transportation for computer backup tapes. That has been the primary reason some information destruction firms have installed media vaults in their facilities. Evolving data backup technology has created new service opportunities for these companies with a secure data storage environment: Electronic Vaulting (E-Vaulting) and server co-location services. By providing a second location where mission critical backup data can be stored and accessed, E-Vaulting and /or server co-location service providers become an even more important partner in their clients’ data protection programs. The climate control systems, power backup and physical security that is already in place at the better media storage facilities is what clients look for in a secure E-Vaulting or co-location site. By acquiring the data storage equipment and commercially available E-Vaulting software (which automatically encrypts data) they are able to meet their clients’ need for a secure on-line backup solution.

This “Concierge Level” Service and Security is like that of a fine hotel. Each and every client is given the finest levels of service with continual supervision by the Owner-Manager. This enhanced security and service is encouraging Fortune 500 corporations to select this methodology as a means to protect their C-Level Officers and Board Members.

The driving force for this enhanced level of service is the current legal climate. There are harsh mandates that require organizations to take all possible precautions to protect their mission critical information. Compliance regulations including Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and the recently (December 2006) amended US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure demand that organizations take the steps required to retain their business data and be able to produce it upon demand. Recent news coverage of lost data tapes potentially exposing personal information has encouraged IT executives to seek alternatives to traditional tape rotation services. In this environment, companies that offer such alternative backup solutions will be poised to profit from recent advances in data storage technology. It is likely most clients will continue to utilize their tape backup equipment to create archival copies for long-term storage of their data sets, and will seek service providers that can protect both types of backup data. An information destruction firm that can do this will receive revenue from all phases of their clients’ data lifecycle. As data volume levels continue to rise universally, earning a client’s cradle-to-grave data management business is a goal worth achieving.

In addition to expanding their service portfolio for existing clients, E-Vaulting and server co-location service providers can bring in clients outside of their local geographic areas. Unlike traditional tape rotation services, no physical transportation of backup media is necessary. Initial downloads of client data can be accomplished by shipping portable hard drives (such as a NAS box) to the client. Because the dominant business model for these services is to charge by the volume of data in storage, hard drive storage capacity can be added incrementally to keep infrastructure costs down.

When searching for a trustworthy firm to safeguard mission critical information, IT managers realize the biggest company may not be the best service provider. Close management of service standards is paramount. Owner managed information destruction and storage firms do this best. E-Vaulting and server co-location are natural extensions of the media vaulting services so many information destruction companies are successfully offering now. If clients trust you with their information on backup tapes and documents, it is likely they will extend that trust to on-line data protection services. This is especially true if the servers are protected by a Class 125 data vault. In time, media backup may be entirely replaced by on-line backup systems. Those who do not offer services that keep up with evolving technologies are sure to be left behind. Fortunately, those with well-equipped facilities and their clients’ trust can expand into these very lucrative services.

Todd Smith is Director of Marketing for the Server Vaulting Division of FIRELOCK. Those interested in this topic may view more articles on the subject by visiting FIRELOCK’s web site. Specifications, plans and other material may be requested through this site.

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