careless user error

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Is accidental data deletion the biggest threat to data protection?

Data is a strategic asset serving nearly every government mission and workload -- from the maintenance of weapons systems to the management of national parks. The seamless, uninterrupted flow and delivery of data to government agencies is imperative to ensure defense, civilian and national security interests.

However, leaving data inadequately protected can lead to disastrous consequences. It’s not just ransomware attacks and sophisticated cyber exploits that can cause data loss. Accidental data deletion -- user error -- can trigger the failure of vital government services, delay time-sensitive decisions and result in significant damage.

As Veeam’s recent Cloud Production Trends Report found, the primary reason organizations are backing up their data is to prevent accidental deletion (58%). However, cloud usage is complicating the data-deletion challenge.

While cloud solutions give agencies greater scalability and flexibility, they also introduce loss of control when it comes to data management. It’s crucial that employees and IT leaders understand how data is protected and backed up on different cloud platforms so they can use the right strategies to keep data safe, even when accidental deletion is the biggest threat.

Role of employees

Ensuring that employees understand the impact of accidental deletion and the role they play is essential to limiting the problem. The first step is helping employees understand the causes of accidental deletion so IT teams can decrease the opportunities for user error. Part of this conversation includes understanding what kind of backup is included with cloud environments -- often there’s an assumption that backup exists when it does not.

As part of this process, government IT managers must put employee preparation and education first. Training should help employees understand different scenarios where they might accidentally delete data and reinforce their role as stewards of good data hygiene and management. In the same way, human resources departments provide regular training on workplace compliance, IT teams should create training materials outlining best practices in managing and protecting the data employees work with on a regular basis, ensuring staff members understand their roles and responsibilities regarding data protection, retention, use and misuse.

A strategy for preventing data loss

In addition to education and preparation, a proper data loss prevention strategy starts with agency needs, requirements and use cases for data recovery and backup. Especially with more employees teleworking, a reliable backup plan will prevent issues introduced by remote staff who mistakenly assume their home systems have the same rigorous, centralized backup and data protection capabilities of their traditional on-premises environment.

Additionally, some IT managers believe that the reliability of their cloud provider eliminates the need for an effective backup and data protection strategy for data in the cloud, whether it be public, private, hybrid or a combination of the three. IT leaders must ensure they have a complete understanding of the “shared responsibilities” element of any contract with a remote service provider. These agreements virtually always include a shared responsibility --  primarily owned by the user of those services -- to implement an effective security practice and enterprise-class backup and disaster recovery policies and processes that reflect their operational environments and recovery requirements.

Government IT managers should incorporate the 3-2-1-1-0 rule into this data protection plan, which is the industry standard for how to protect data and the ultimate line of defense in the fight against ransomware. This rule means that teams keep at least three copies of each piece of important data, with backup data stored on two different media types with at least one of the copies at an offsite location and at least one offline.

Lastly, verified backups should contain zero errors. Backups are only adequate when they are being verified with daily monitoring and restore tests are performed at recurring intervals.

Moving beyond legacy technology -- including data protection

As agencies modernize and move to cloud or multicloud environments, data protection must also adjust. Government IT teams implementing new architectures must consider modern data protection frameworks that account for the widespread cloud-based environment.

A modular approach to cloud-native backup and recovery is ideal, offering a single platform for centralized multicloud data protection, management and cloud mobility and cloud-hosted workloads. As agencies advance, it’s necessary to accommodate the various cloud platforms they may be using in a multicloud environment with standalone solutions for AWS, Azure and Google Cloud to ensure cost-effective backup and recovery within each cloud.

This practice will ensure mobility of both backup and production data so accidental deletion doesn’t become a factor when moving among cloud providers or between cloud and on-premises solutions.

Cloud environments in government will only expand and become more complex. Moving forward, government IT managers must implement a modern data protection plan that incorporates both educational and technical solutions to deter the effects of data loss.

About the Author

Mike Miller is vice president, federal, with Veeam Government Solutions.

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