Data Loss is on the way of being threatened! We must work out some way to avoid it and reduce the cost due to it!

SECURITY BREACHES When an intruder breaches the network, server, or storage defenses of a company, he usually has one of three goals: to look at information he shouldn’t look at, to deny the company the use of its data, or to damage and destroy data. Because the harm is intentional, an intruder can do more selective damage aimed at long-term harm.

Intruders come in two types: insiders and outsiders. The press tends to accentuate the problem of outsiders, yet insiders are as big a problem. Insiders can do more damage because they already have access to vital systems (and don’t have to work as hard to get at important data) and know what type of damage can do the most harm. Insiders also have the advantage of less scrutiny. Most IT departments have sophisticated methods of detecting outsiders trying to break in. Fewer companies monitor activity inside their network. For this reason, insiders can go undetected until they do damage, whereas outsiders are often stopped at the network perimeter.

Security concerns affect data protection strategies in two ways. First, it is important to keep backups or copies of data, in case a security breach results in damage or destruction of critical data. Second, part of the data protection strategy needs to be securing vital data and information assets against harm. Although network and server security is well formed and understood by IT professionals,storage system security is much less mature, in terms of both technology and best practices.

ACCIDENTAL DATA LOSS Accidental loss represents one of the most common data loss scenarios. End-users are often the culprits; they delete, overwrite, and misplace critical files or e-mails, often without knowing they’ve done so.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was not at all unusual for the help desk to get frantic calls from end-users who had reformatted their hard drives. Fortunately, changes in desktop operating systems have made accidental reformatting of a hard drive much more difficult, and it is now a rare event. Damaged or reformatted floppy or Zip drives are still a common problem, though this usually destroys only archive data. As other forms of mobile media, such as solid state memory devices, are used by more people, the likelihood of loss of data on these devices grows. And yes, people sometimes drop their smart media cards in their coffee.

Though IT personnel may feel frustrated by the silly errors end-users make that result in data loss, they are responsible for quite a few errors themselves. Botched data migrations, hastily performed database reconfigurations, and accidentally deleted system files are everyday occurrences in the IT world. One of the most common and most damaging IT errors occurs when a backup tape is overwritten. Not only is the previous data destroyed, but there is no good way to recover much of it. Also, quite a few backups are damaged due to sloppy storage practices.

The risk that the end-user represents is usually a recoverable one. Although it’s a hassle to dig out backups and pull off individual files, it is still something that can be done if the data in question is important enough. Good habits, such as backing up files to file servers or automated backups and volume shadow copying (now part of the Windows operating system), can alleviate many of the effects of end-user data loss.

IT mistakes represent much greater risk. The effects of an IT accident are not limited to individuals; instead, they affect entire applications and systems, many of which are mission critical. Strict policies and controls are necessary to prevent these types of errors.

SYSTEM FAILURE System failures often cause data loss. The most famous type of failure is a hard drive crash. Although hard drives don’t fail with the frequency that they used to, failures are still a major problem for many system administrators. This is especially true of drives in high-use servers, in which drive failure is inevitable. Data can also be corrupted or destroyed because of spurious errors with disk array hardware, Fibre Channel and SCSI host bus adapters (HBAs), and network interface cards (NICs). Fluctuations in electricity, sudden power outages, and vibration and shock can damage disks and the data stored on them.

Failures in software are also a source of data loss. Updated drivers and firmware are notorious for having bugs that cause data to be erased or corrupted. The same can happen with new versions of application or database software. The failure of IT to properly back up and verify the integrity of a backup before installing new software is an age-old problem leading to irrecoverable data loss.

System failures cannot be completely prevented, but steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of losing data when they occur. One of the most common steps is to buy high availability (HA) devices for mission-critical applications. HA units offer better protection against shock, flaky electricity, and link failures that can corrupt data. They also have software protection that ensure that I/O is complete and that bad blocks do not get written to disks. Good backup and archive procedures are also important parts of a plan to protect against system failure.

When networking was introduced, the risks associated with it were relatively low. Most networks were small, with only a handful of computers linked. The Internet started as a network of only four mainframes. Local-area networks (LANs) did not become widely deployed until the late 1980s. Access to these networks was very limited, and the number of assets involved was low.

As the networks grew, both in size and complexity, security problems became more prevalent, and the risk involved in using a network became higher. There were more devices of different types, with many more access points. Whereas in the past, disasters or hackers could be contained to one computer, networking allowed problems to spread throughout a large number of machines. There is now network access to more computers than at any time before. Many homes now have several linked computers and network devices, and have become susceptible to the same security and network problems that have plagued the corporate world for years.

Network Attached Storage and Storage Area Network technology have had a similar effect on storage. Data storage devices have traditionally been isolated behind a server. Secure the server, and you secure the storage as well. That is no longer the case, and storage devices are experiencing many of the same problems that other network devices do. Some people would argue that the ability to get unauthorized access to a Fibre Channel SAN is low. However, if a malicious hacker does get through system defenses, he or she now has a greater number of devices to wreak havoc on. Connectivity increases risk because it gives more access to more resources that can be damaged.

Because risk is outcome based, the outcome of a successful intrusion or data corruption in a networked storage environment can be much more devastating than with an equal number of isolated, directly connected storage devices. Even when system security is not the issue, connectivity can magnify other problems. Previously, one server could access only a small number of storage devices. If something went wrong, and the server caused data to become corrupted, it could do so to only a small amount of data held on its local resources. Servers can now potentially access hundreds or even thousands of storage devices and can corrupt data on a scale that was not possible before.

Networked storage also has increased the complexity of the storage system, which can introduce more problems. The complexity of the storage infrastructure has increased dramatically, with switches, hubs, cables, appliances, management software, and very complicated switch-based disk array controllers. The opportunity to introduce errors into the data stream and corrupt or destroy it is much higher with so many devices in the mix.

In the networked storage environment, there are many servers and many storage devices. More servers can damage or provide unauthorized access to data. Even a single server can affect many data storage devices. The potential harm is multiplied by the high degree of connectivity that a modern storage infrastructure allows for.

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