Data Protection: What is it and Why is it Important?

Posted on November 30, 2021 Backups & DR

Data protection refers to how companies ensure the accuracy, integrity, and availability of the information they store. According to DigitalSense, “Data protection refers to the mechanism of making copies of your data to restore in the event of a loss or corruption. […] data security refers to the mechanism of keeping your data safe from unauthorized access and distribution.”

Data security and data protection work together to achieve the same overall goal: to keep information safe. However, data protection is focused on keeping your information intact and available, while data security is focused on keeping it free from malware and cyberattacks.

Data Protection Principles

In a business context, there are two key principles to data protection:Ensuring that the right data is accessible to the right people as they need it (data availability), and

-Ensuring businesses properly store, transfer, and protect data (data management). This can include how data is moved from one storage solution to another and what is done to prevent user error, malware infections, or cyberattacks.

-Data management includes not only the activities described above, but also how data is used; unless businesses can mine their data for marketing, analytics, research, development, or other purposes, they’re not really getting the full benefit from it.

A critical part of data management is keeping information current in the event of a system interruption. This can be done in many ways – onsite via tape backups, disk backups, etc., or offsite via Cloud storage. Onsite data backup has some advantages; information that’s stored locally doesn’t have to be connected to the Internet, which means it’s not as vulnerable to hacking. However, organizations often find that Cloud-based backup has greater advantages, including lower costs, greater portability, and increased availability. For more information, please see this detailed overview of Cloud data security practices.

Another approach to data protection is called continuous data protection (CDP), or real-time backup. Essentially, this captures changes to data as they happen and stores them in a different location from the main file/source.

CDP is quite different from traditional backup, where changes are recorded at a set interval (like when you work on a file and manually save it every five minutes). It’s an excellent way to fully restore data, but it can tax storage and bandwidth if you’re using it with large files.

Why is Data Protection Important?

Data protection mitigates some of the risk inherent in storing sensitive data and can prevent or minimize the impact of data availability issues. 

Most importantly, it helps organizations meet the legal, regulatory, and ethical requirements of managing other people’s information.

There’s one more reason why data protection is crucial: the financial implications of a data loss or breach. The data security firm Varonis compiled an eye-opening list of statistics around the cost and prevalence of data breaches:

-Globally, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million.

-Every 39 seconds, another cyberattack occurs.

-28% of data breach victims are small businesses.

-23% of data breaches are caused by human error, not malware or hackers; of the remaining incidents, 62% were caused by stolen credentials, phishing, or brute force attacks.

Data Protection Strategies

At its core, data protection relies on data replication – maintaining an exact copy of the data in a separate storage space. This can be done at intervals or it can be done via synchronous replication (where a backup copy is sent to a different storage site at the same time the operational data is stored locally).

Organizations can use Cloud, onsite, or hybrid data replication strategies to protect the availability of their data. Often, the main difference is how often changes to the data are captured. Popular backup methods include:

-Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) – Connects multiple drives to serve a single storage system. Can provide synchronous replication as described above and protect against disk failures.

-Erasure coding – According to Stonefly, erasure coding “breaks data into a configurable number of parts and distributes those parts across a set of different storage systems.” Compared to RAID, erasure coding takes less storage but requires more computing power.

-Snapshots – Capture data at a set point in time. Snapshots don’t require much storage space and can protect against data corruption or partial loss; however, they may allow the most recent changes to be lost. In the event of a major data event, such as a company losing all access to a data storage facility, full disaster recovery may be the only effective data protection option. 

The Role of Data Protection in Disaster Recovery

Continuous data protection and Cloud/hybrid disaster recovery systems have changed how we manage data loss. No DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) option worth the money would omit data protection; restoring data access is a core aspect of DR. For example, NETdepot’s data protection solution contains built-in disaster recovery; each cluster has additional nodes that automatically kick in if there is a hardware failure. We also use SSD SAN storage with 20 Gbit connectivity to quickly back up data changes in a redundant and scalable environment. 

Meanwhile, our disaster recovery as a service package includes database and application protection as well as secure, remote, and redundant Cloud-based data storage.

In today’s world, you can’t separate data protection from disaster recovery. Organizations across all industries rely on data to function which is why protecting it is so important.

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