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Data Availability: Ensuring the Continued Functioning of Business Operations

Maintaining data availability is essential for the performance and business continuity of an organization. If you were to lose access to mission-critical data, your IT operations could grind to a halt, resulting in financial costs and, more importantly, damage to the reputation of your organization.

To guarantee continued data availability and access, it is important to understand what can cause your data to become inaccessible and what challenges you have to overcome to prevent data loss. In this brief guide, we will cover the basics of data availability and its challenges, and offer techniques to help you maintain a high level of data availability.

In this article:
• What is data availability?
• Data availability challenges
• Best practices and tools to ensure data availability
• Maintaining data availability with Cloudian

What Is Data Availability?

Organizations rely on data to deliver products and services to their customers. To keep their data “live” or “online”, organizations need to keep the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure active even in the case of a disruption to the network. This state of guaranteed access to data is known as data availability.

A scenario in which data is not accessible is highly problematic because it can prevent the delivery of services, and in some cases creates a chain reaction that compromises other data as well. Therefore, organizations must take measures to ensure that mission-critical data remains accessible at all times.

Data Access
To take advantage of a company’s services, a user or data owner must be able to access and retrieve data stored in the network. Organizations can grant data access to specific users, allowing them to handle data. Data access can be sequential, enabling users to access a data sequence in order, or random, allowing users to access any datum directly.

Data access is closely tied to data availability, which is dependent on the ability to view, modify and move data when necessary.

Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability Model
Confidentiality, integrity, and availability (also known as the CIA triad) is a model designed to help organizations plan their information security strategy and comply with data protection regulations.

  • • Confidentiality—a set of rules and procedures to limit unauthorized access to sensitive information. This includes measures such as training security teams to identify vulnerabilities across the organization’s environment, training employees to avoid data misuse, and implementing the use of strong passwords.
  • • Integrity—ensuring the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of data. Security teams must take steps to ensure the integrity of data at rest and in transit. Protective measures against attacks that can modify data include file permissions, user access controls and version controls.
  • • Availability—the ability to guarantee reliable access to data. Organizations must keep crucial data available and shorten data outage times as much as possible. To achieve data availability, organizations must be able to quickly repair all hardware failures and maintain backups.

Data Durability vs Data Availability vs Data Retention
Data durability is a different but related objective to data availability, with an emphasis on the long term. While data availability focuses on system uptime and operational live data, data durability refers to protecting the data throughout its lifecycle. This includes ensuring stored data doesn’t degrade or get corrupted.

Data retention relates to persistent data and records management policies for analysis or compliance purposes. The data involved is archived for later review or to provide evidence in legal situations, rather than for any immediate or frequent use. A data retention policy provides for storing data that does not need to be accessed frequently in a lower-level storage tier.

Data Availability Challenges

There are several issues that can affect the availability of your data:

Host server failures—if the server that stores your data fails, your data will become unavailable.

Storage failures—if your physical storage device fails, you can no longer access the data it stores.

Network crash—if the network crashes, the host server becomes inaccessible along with the data stored on it.

Poor data quality—low-quality datasets may contain incomplete, inconsistent, or redundant data, which could be useless for your IT operations.

Data compatibility issues—data that is usable and working on a specific platform or environment might not be on another.

Legacy data—data that is too outdated can become unusable. You can use data transformation tools to make older data readily accessible, but these do not always work.

Best Practices and Tools to Ensure Data Availability

The key to ensuring data availability is often in how you store it. The following are techniques you can use to keep your data online.

Data Redundancy
It is important to store backups of your data in a separate location, or in a distributed network. This ensures that if a storage component degrades or fails, you won’t lose the data permanently. You should frequently update your backups so you can restore the most recent versions of your data.

Data Loss Prevention Tools
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools help mitigate against data breaches and physical damage to your data center. They leverage cloud-based or third-party storage to provide the necessary redundancy to prevent data loss. Some DLP tools include features such as monitoring, threat blocking, and forensic analysis.

Erasure Coding
Object storage uses advanced erasure coding to ensure that data is always available. Erasure coding combines data with parity information and then splits or “shards” it and distributes it across the storage environment. This protects against component failure as you only need a subset of the shards to restore the data.

Maintaining Data Availability with Cloudian

Cloudian HyperStore is an on-prem, enterprise storage solution that uses a fully distributed architecture to eliminate single points of failure. It is compatible with the S3 API and provides a high level of data availability.

The HyperStore software implementation builds on three or more distributed nodes, allowing you to replicate your objects. You can also use erasure coding across nodes to ensure data durability and availability.

Cloudian stores your data securely and ensures data availability so you can maintain your business operations and improve your response to market conditions.

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