Feature

Managing storage at the edge

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The further data gets from the data center, the harder it is to manage. When employees work on the road or remotely - which IDC estimates 47 million corporate users will do this year - IT has little choice but to create an effective policy for managing far-flung storage. And that includes not only laptops and PDAs on the road, but also home office computers. Roughly 30 million employees last year engaged in some sort of telework during the workweek, according to a Cahners In-Stat survey.

The stakes for IT are high. The Computer Security Institute estimates that when a single laptop is lost or stolen, it costs $32,000 on average to replace data and proprietary information. And PDAs - although they may seem cheap and unassuming - were pegged with a hefty replacement cost of $2,500 in a recent Gartner study. "There's so much more mission-critical corporate data on mobile devices now," says Stephen Drake, an IDC analyst. "IT is forced to take them seriously - and to think about things like management, administration and security because of the growing mobile workforce."

Ensuring the security of mobile or at-home data is a complex job for security professionals. But when it comes to preventing data loss and preparing for disaster recovery due to disappearing equipment, imploding hardware or user fumbles, the buck stops with IT storage managers. Laptops and home office computers require backup schemes that - like good enterprise desktop procedures - require as little user

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intervention as possible (see "Local backup for laptops"). PDAs need workable backup and synchronization procedures - or read-only applications that minimize the impact of loss or theft.

Like it or not, enterprise data will keep circulating in a wider and wider orbit from the heart of the enterprise. Halfhearted attempts at managing data at the outer edge invite disaster - even concerted efforts run amok. Lesson by lesson, IT is learning how to cope.

Corralling far-flung hard drives
Any worthwhile IT department implements regular network backups and has a plan for disaster recovery. But managing remote laptops or home computers is a different kettle of fish. No one is there to crack the whip in person, so a mature, automated backup process is mandatory - studies show only one out of 10 employees perform manual backups. Also, unless remote users connect via a VPN, encryption during remote network backup is a must. And with connections often sporadic and/or dial-up-based, backup software needs to minimize connect time.

At Deluxe Corp., Shoreview, MN, one of the world's largest check printers, Tina Reilly, senior technical analyst, manages storage for a 300-person international sales force that never comes to the office. "We work with financial institutions ... so if our sales reps lose that information, it's very critical," Reilly says. To serve these home-based, traveling sales people, Reilly recently outfitted all of them with identical new Dell laptops loaded with Mobiliti's Network/Unplugged, a mobile synchronization and backup solution.

Because laptop hard drives aren't interchangeable, Reilly needed the homogenous Dell hardware, so IT could stock identical replacement drives preloaded with a standard mix of OS and apps in preparation for bare metal recovery. She also required a complete backup of current user data - a challenge with non-technical, permanently dispersed users, many of whom rely on dial-up connections. What to do? "We went to their sales convention and did the first initial backup for them via LAN," says Reilly. "So when they got their laptops, all they had to do was keep up with the incrementals."

This was first published in September 2002

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