Why Safeguarding Endpoint Data In Distributed IT Environments Requires A Different Approach To Storage

Organisations have long acknowledged the importance of backing up data stored on their ‘endpoints’ – i.e., the remote computing devices such as desktops and laptops that communicate with their network. However, it has generally fallen to the wayside in terms of attention, with data centre backup receiving the bulk of the investment from IT professionals – until now.

Before last year, most organisations had a workforce that was largely confined to just one place – their office. In the majority of cases, employees would be working on the same physical network as their company’s file server. The few remote workers who had access to sensitive data were generally client facing salespeople who needed to travel as part of their role.

But in 2020, widespread remote working accelerated the growing trend of increasingly distributed IT infrastructures. Most workers now store valuable data not only on their laptops but also on their smartphones and tablets. Each of these endpoints represents a “mini data centre” that needs to be backed up properly.

Data is now so widely distributed across many organisations’ infrastructures that endpoint backup can no longer be ignored as an IT priority. As 38% of iOS apps and 43% of Android apps include at least one high-risk vulnerability, it’s neither realistic nor sensible to leave this quantity of data at risk.

Challenges of going remote

When Covid-19 took hold, businesses were forced to embrace a work-from-home workforce virtually overnight. This speed of change meant that the majority of IT expenditure was diverted to ensuring business continuity. This included buying new laptops and upgrading VPNs so employees could remotely access the systems and data needed to continue working effectively.

However, IT departments quickly realised that this shift introduced a whole new set of operational challenges around endpoint data. On the one hand, traditional file servers aren’t particularly effective for remote work and collaboration. Data typically needs to be shared locally, presenting issues when it comes to remote collaboration and managing data across multiple locations.

On the other hand, now that the workforce is almost completely distributed, more data than ever is being created and stored locally on remote devices. And more employees are traversing the public internet to complete their work, which adds a security concern.

Linked to this is the need to ensure GDPR compliance, which requires greater visibility and control into what data is being stored on different devices and how it is protected. The challenge businesses must remember is that many of these endpoint devices don’t actually belong to them. Employees working remotely will often use their own smartphones or tablets, presenting added security and compliance complexity as businesses might not have full visibility into what data is stored on them.

Add to this the fact that cloud-based file-sharing services – which employees are now accessing from a wider range of locations – are often outside of IT control, and the scale of the regulatory and compliance concerns facing businesses becomes clear.

The combination of these issues has propelled endpoint backup to the top of IT agendas and is forcing businesses to rethink their approach to data management. Object storage is quickly emerging as the solution to many of the biggest data storage and backup challenges in today’s increasingly distributed IT landscape.

Securing endpoint data

Object storage represents a distinct improvement compared to traditional storage methods when it comes to enabling remote working and keeping endpoint data safe, regardless of how far it is spread out geographically.

This storage architecture enables users to manage data as objects and hold massive amounts of unstructured data. It essentially bundles the data itself along with customizable metadata tags and a unique identifier, allowing users to add more identifying information for each piece of data. These objects are stored in a flat address space, which makes it easier to locate and retrieve data across regions.

Object storage’s geo-distribution capabilities mean data can be accessed from anywhere, while still being managed from one location. An object storage infrastructure can cover multiple data centres, with data coming into one site and being instantly replicated across all the other sites to ensure a single source of truth. This puts the data closer to the different groups of people that need it, as well as providing assurance that employees are accessing the most up-to-date documents from wherever they are.

Object storage is also much more scalable than traditional storage. Businesses can seamlessly and cost-efficiently scale both capacity and performance through additional nodes, all without any risk of disruption or downtime. When linked with endpoint protection APIs, this means that data snapshots can continuously be sent back to a central repository without businesses having to worry about running out of space.

Object storage also makes these data stores more easily searchable. The customisable metadata used in object storage compared to traditional file servers empowers users to quickly find the right data when they need it.

Ultimately, the last year has transformed the way business operate – in many cases irreversibly. This requires a new approach to data management on endpoint devices. With workforces and IT infrastructures now more widely distributed than ever before, object storage is emerging as the solution to keeping corporate data protected and accessible wherever it resides.

Neil Stobart
VP of Global System Engineering
Cloudian
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