Scaling data safely: Enhancing data security in data storage solutions

Businesses are faced with a situation where, if they want to grow in this new era of “big data,” they must invest in data storage.

These days, data is increasingly commoditized and is among an organization’s most valuable assets. However, although each data point might be a small byte, the amount of data a business produces builds up quickly, leaving many organizations with a surplus of data and a number of unique challenges.

As businesses are producing more and more data, there must be somewhere for that data to go. One source reports that around 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years alone, showing massive growth in data production year over year.

Businesses are faced with a situation where, if they want to grow in this new era of “big data,” they must invest in data storage. Unfortunately, those organizations that hope to store their data in-house have the costly expense of purchasing and maintaining storage infrastructure, or paying even larger public cloud storage bills

Cluster architecture is emerging as a popular data storage solution that allows greater scalability. Unused storage space is one of the biggest sources of waste — both financially and environmentally — in the data industry.

If a growing enterprise purchases more dedicated storage space for each new use case and application, it will be left with low utilization rates. On the other hand, cluster architecture allows organizations to purchase more storage as needed and distribute data across cluster nodes, regardless of application, making it a generally more cost-affordable solution to an increasing breadth of data.

The relationship between scalability and security

Businesses whose data storage needs are growing find that their cybersecurity needs are as well. The more valuable data an organization stores, the more vulnerable it is to becoming a target of hackers and other wrongdoers who hope to access the data for their own nefarious purposes. Thus, while simpler access protection and encryption methods might be sufficient for smaller organizations, their data solutions require several layers of protection and failsafes as they continue to grow.

Ultimately, the main goal of a data storage solution that implements cluster architecture is to maintain access to data even in cases of massive failure. With the proper layers of protection, a user can still access their data — even if a server, rack, or an entire row or data center fails. For example, if a particular server is compromised with a ransomware attack, organizations using a cluster architecture storage system should not lose access to their data, as another copy should be stored in another location to ensure continuous access.

How cluster architecture provides data security

One method that cluster architecture systems often use to protect and preserve access to data is data replication. This is a measure in which multiple copies of the data are written so that one or more copies could be lost or erased and the ability to read the data would not be compromised. Granted, this method can grow expensive, depending on the amount of data an organization needs to store and secure, considering the amount of storage space required to support multiple redundant copies.

To address the cost challenges of redundancies, many solutions have also begun to implement a process known as erasure coding. The purpose of erasure coding is to use parity to store data so that fewer drives are needed to reconstruct lost data. Although this method is associated with some loss of performance, the cost savings related to erasure coding often make it a desirable alternative for growing organizations with increasingly complex data needs.

Ceph as an ideal cluster storage solution

Of the cluster architecture solutions that have emerged, the most popular is the open-source platform Ceph. Ceph implements many of these features — data replication, erasure coding and proper distribution of data — to ensure users can maintain access to their data without interruption, even in cases where there is what may have otherwise been perceived as “catastrophic failure.”

Because Ceph, along with many other cluster architecture solutions, is an open-source platform, compliance measures are not built-in. However, there are third-party providers designed to streamline the implementation and use of these open-source platforms, which also help manage the compliance of organizations’ data storage. These providers ensure that users’ data has the level of security and privacy required by law and that each Ceph deployment will hold up under the scrutiny of an audit.

For businesses moving forward with a growth-oriented mindset, data storage is likely at the forefront of their concerns, but organizations should also be careful with the security of their growing base of data. Cluster architecture-based storage solutions, such as Ceph, are ideal in that they fulfill a business’s storage needs while providing the level of protection needed for peace of mind.

Martin Verges co-founded Croit GmbH in the field of innovative software-defined scale-out storage solutions in 2017, and is currently CEO.

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