Digital transformation is an IT industry megatrend that comprises many elements and technologies. One common theme to digitisation is that virtually every single initiative relies on the greater collection and analysis of data.
If an organisation has more information about itself, its marketplace, and its customers then it can make better decisions, increase productivity and harness the power of automation.
More than half of IT decision makers believe Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will impact the future of IT. Both of these innovations require access to substantial quantities of useful data to function.
It is this desire for data that is driving such exponential growth. According to a study by IDC, data generation will reach 163 zettabytes by 2025, a tenfold increase from 2017, as the use of connected devices and data-intensive applications multiplies.
The data visibility challenge
The increased volume, diversity and complexity of data presents new challenges. Organisations must be able to manage various sources of information and have the visibility to ensure data can be easily accessed and move freely between different applications.
If information is siloed away on a random server or is stored in a proprietary format, its value to the business is considerably diminished and digitisation efforts can be significantly undermined.
The issue of visibility is increasingly being recognised by IT departments. According to the 2019 Insight Intelligent Technology Index (ITI), 54% of IT decision makers say data management and data governance is a top challenge.
The cloud helps solve the issue of data portability and visibility by providing agile, on-demand access to compute and storage services that can act as a central repository for data which serves multiple applications. Such flexibility is beyond the capabilities of rigid legacy IT infrastructure.
Data can be managed by cloud-based database platforms such as Azure SQL Server, which combine the familiar application management toolset of SQL Server with scalability and built-in intelligence.
Meanwhile, hybrid cloud environments allow organisations to keep some workloads on-premise or in a private cloud environment while maintaining the same level of portability and visibility.
Greater visibility over data assets can also help safeguard against the under and over provisioning of cloud services, increasing cost effectiveness.
Insight helped British Engineering Services (BES) optimise its cloud strategy as it moved its final on-premise services to Microsoft Azure. BES has completed its migration, making full use of Azure’s security features, and has access to detailed cost management reports that provide additional visibility.
Protecting this data
Such visibility is not only desirable for the effectiveness of digital transformation efforts – it is essential for security. Organisations must ensure that any data stored or processed in the cloud is protected for the entirety of its lifecycle and adheres to any privacy or compliance legislation.
A cyberattack can have a devastating impact on productivity, business continuity and reputation, while the loss of customer or corporate data has serious reputational and financial consequences – especially in the era of GDPR. The average total cost of a data breach can be as high as £3 million.
Not only is cloud a more secure platform by nature, the greater visibility it affords can mitigate the risk of a breach and maintain compliance with industry and country-specific regulations.
Microsoft Cloud customers can restrict access to information to specific users, applications and devices, while Azure Information Protection classifies data according to type and sensitivity. This informs Data Loss Protection (DLP) features that stop the accidental or deliberate dispersal of sensitive information.
Automated retention further enhances compliance and efficiency. Polices can decide whether a certain dataset has no value, whether some information is being kept for compliance and regulatory reasons, and which data is useful. Administrators can set these policies using PowerShell or through the portal for the relevant service, such as Azure SQL Database or Office 365.
It’s also possible to mandate that certain data and workloads are stored and processed in selected jurisdictions. An example of this would be to ensure that information about European users is stored in a European data centre, as dictated by local legislation.
The cloud offers a level of visibility and control that cannot be matched by traditional IT systems. Data is the lifeblood of digital transformation and must be managed effectively – only then will organisations reap the full benefits of digitisation.
Find out how a cloud-based data management strategy can help your business.