Please Think Twice, it’s All Right! Data Backup and its Necessities

There is a song by Bob Dylan, this legend of American folk music that used to make me enthusiastic when I was still a student. He used to sing it with his characteristic, passionate voice (even if it doesn’t always sounds as such) back in the early days of his success. The song was entitled “Don’t think twice is all-right” and Dylan kept on repeating these words time after time during the three-four minutes that the song lasts.

It is a wonderful folk song that echoes the spirit of the times when it was written: the rebellious 1960s. It is one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, even if as I was growing up I came to disagree with the meaning of what he was singing about! Allow me, please, to explain myself! It always feels great not to think too much when you’re young, I know. You can get drunk without thinking about next morning’s headache, you can go and talk to that beautiful lady who sits alone in the bar and you can be spontaneous and act before you think, as if there is not a problem with that.

If you have to wake up the next morning to go to your office or if you have a lovely wife waiting for your back home, then you aren’t “free” not to think twice before you succumb to instinct and desire. In this case, you are obliged, or to put it better, you want to think things twice!

When it comes to the important things in life, we must think it twice, indeed. Take for example data protection and management. We know it from personal experience: we need to have a back up of all of our important files stored in our PC. A hard drive crush is something familiar to everyone reading these lines as it is, and, unfortunately for us, an unavoidable accident.

That is why a back up of the backup is an ideal solution for us, not to mention businesses that need to be extra careful, as a potential catastrophe cold hypothetically mean the end for them. Nowadays, data centers are much safer and properly designed in order to avoid the terrible effects of a big data loss. However, they are not impenetrable.  A simple accident can actually destroy what was carefully saved there for years.

Typhoon Haiyan Relief - City of Tacloban

Typhoon Haiyan Relief – City of Tacloban

We witnessed recently another huge disaster that occurred on this planet; I’m referring to the typhoon that attacked the Philippines. It proves that as much as we try, we will never be 100% safe from an unexpected disaster. The powers of nature combined with the tricky nature of an unwanted coincidence can cripple even the best defensive mechanisms ever implemented by humans.

Iron Mountain, the leading expert on data and information management strongly recommends to businesses to have in mind that a backup of their data is not enough: they need a backup of the backup.

Today, many businesses choose cloud backup in what it is a solution that is surely not the best or the most secure. Cloud is relatively easy to handle, but we should never forget that the data stored in the cloud is actually stored… down on earth and inside a vulnerable data center! Therefore, cloud might come pretty handy for companies and businesses but the danger is still there – so it comes as a necessity to actually think twice even about perfection, especially for business makers.

When Bob Dylan was young he told us not to think it twice. Nevertheless, as he grew up he significantly changed and turned from a rebellious youngster into a more moderate human being. After he became himself a successful businessman, something tells me that he actually changed his motto as well: please, think it twice, it’s all right! As what we learn from not thinking twice once (maybe when we are young and restless) is to actually think twice forever after.

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Knowledge is power: Industrial espionage, data protection and the quest for meaning

There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.

Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.

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If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?

The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.

Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.

In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.

As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.

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It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.

They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.

In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.

To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.

Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.

And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.