Outsourcing data needs to equal outsourcing expertise
02-04-2009 - John Hatcher
Matt Crayton, head of IT run services at Thales tells DCM why managed services are becoming more important.
Economic woes aside, it's fair to say that data security is top of mind for many organisations at present. There has been steady flow of data security breaches hitting the headlines over the past 12 months which have really brought the issue home to roost. The loss of details of three million candidates applying for driving licenses, or, more recently, hackers raiding the World Bank's computer network, has highlighted the range of data that organisations hold on their customers and the extent of the security measures needed to protect it. Many companies are in fact coming to the conclusion that outsourcing their data to a trusted third party could be the solution to both keeping their data secure and gaining access to valuable industry and sector-specific expertise.
Facing the data security challenges Data security has become an important issue which affects large and smaller organisations alike. Across the board companies cannot afford to take security risks and given the fear of hackers infiltrating sensitive company or customer data, organisations are increasingly looking for mission-critical managed service solutions.
However, there are a number of challenges that organisations face when it comes to outsourcing their data to a third party storage provider. With more and more information stored, many organisations, whether they are small- to medium-sized or a large corporate, are looking for smarter infrastructure capable of controlling how information is retained, transferred and secured against misuse. Indeed, a survey of attendees at the Storage Networking World conference in Norway in October 2008 found that the amount of critical data that needs to be securely stored continues to increase, despite the struggling economy.
Furthermore, in today's online world, information can be moved around quickly and easily through internet connections and as businesses become more reliant on online traffic to conduct their business, data centres need to ensure that this data is managed and hosted in a resilient and secure environment. As such, data security should be treated as an overall risk management and governance process, particularly as new EU regulations state that data has to be stored for a certain amount of time when investigating and prosecuting fraudsters.
Additionally, many companies that have traditionally used IT helpdesks and IT service providers at a low fixed rate also experience extremely low customer satisfaction. What is missing is the contextual knowledge. As companies are looking to securely store their data, the requirement that these solutions are delivered by professionals able to speak the same, sector-specific language as the customers is becoming indispensable. Only if companies can be put at ease, knowing that their data is stored in a robust hosting environment and looked after by experts that understand their specific market needs, are they able to drive forward their core business without having to invest in technical capabilities internally.
Managed service providers offering military-style data security are in the best position to provide a reliable resource for many organisations that do not have the skills available in-house. While many in-house IT professionals are in a position to host their own data, securely storing data is only achieved through a combination of industry knowledge and expertise. A storage provider can often offer this expertise combined with the technical abilities to maintain and upgrade servers and security solutions. Ultimately, this will help corporates which are outsourcing their data storage deliver a better customer experience.
Managed data centres that enable companies to put secure data storage processes in place will support them in storing their mission-critical data in a robust environment and also in lowering organisations' overall business expenses. As the current economic situation is unlikely to change for some time, outsourcing data is one way to lower overall business expenses while maintaining operational peak performance. Outsourcing the backing up of critical data is one of the best ways to increase the levels of protection while decreasing the expenditure required to perform this vital function.
Companies are also increasingly looking for managed data centres offering extra capacity and facilities to offices. The more innovative data centres have now progressed beyond simply providing back-up capacity for companies in the event of floods, fires, power outages or other disasters, and are now enabling IT departments to outsource tasks to managed services. Given recent news of organisations consolidating office space as they are forced to reconsider their financial outgoings, the nature of co-location is likely to evolve further. More and more, organisations are unlikely to have their back-up systems physically located close to their primary systems.
Successfully hosting data: a case study
As specialised management information systems and service solutions, particularly for the international transport sector, are set to grow, there is a significant increase in the cross-border movement of goods and the number of people travelling across European railway networks. This is being driven by the improved reliability of rail services, growth in global trade and a new era of European interoperability.
In order to better meet the data management needs of clients in the transportation sector, English, Welsh and Scottish Railway operator EWS - and Thales formed Transeo in 2006. Its customers, such as National Rail Enquiries, are offered a fully managed provision of IT services and infrastructure, delivering transport-specific information systems, technology services and business process outsourcing.
The operational delivery team is based alongside a new, purpose-designed data centre in Doncaster, which hosts as many as 450 Intel-based servers including dedicated small form factor machines that provide discrete application services, blade servers for scalable server-based computing and application delivery, and large multiprocessor systems for handling the core server virtualisation and database infrastructure.
With increasing demands on security and sector-specific knowledge to protect sensitive data, managed data providers need to ensure that the specific and niche requirements of their clients are met. This is particularly the case as many organisations are relying on infrastructure technology and data management as a major source of their competitiveness. Offering companies a risk-free approach to storing their data in a military-style environment will allow them to continue to keep their eyes focused on maintaining and growing their core business in a challenging market environment.