[Florian Malecki was international product marketing senior director, StorageCraft, at the time of publication]

In 2019, no one could have predicted that we would have a global pandemic in 2020 that would dramatically change how we work, live and play. Covid-19 has impacted every single business sector across the world, and the technology industry is no exception.

Government guidance and lockdowns have meant that the majority of us are now working from the safety of our homes. For IT teams, the sudden, explosive rise in remote working presents new and different challenges, especially when it comes to managing and storing the upsurge of data. With this in mind, the following themes are those that we have seen emerge in 2020 and we believe will continue to gain traction during 2021.

Covid-19 changed the data-management paradigm for years to come

Security, backup, and recovery across remote locations have long been a significant challenge for organizations. Of course, this was true even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The problem has been exacerbated by Covid-19 and remote working because data is now further distributed and has compounded vulnerabilities.

The reality is that we won’t be going back to the office anytime soon. Many businesses are keen to embrace remote working for the long term, with a recent report finding that as many as a quarter of British employees could end up working from home for good. It’s clear that few of us will be returning to the office anytime soon, even after a widely accepted vaccine.

As a result, companies must manage and protect data at these edge locations effectively. Specifically, they will need to put greater emphasis on simple-to-implement, low-cost, cloud-based solutions that can effectively back up and protect data in remote environments.

Video conferencing put unexpected strain on storage capacity

In the Covid-19 era, companies are generating more data than ever. Just think about all the Zoom calls that are now being recorded, shared, and stored. Many organizations don’t yet realise that video storage can cost millions of pounds annually. They will soon face a wake-up call as they outgrow their existing storage space and scramble to meet far greater data-storage requirements.

The same is true for educational and healthcare institutions. For instance, schools are dealing with exponential growth in the amount of data they handle as students and teachers embrace digital content, cloud services, and online apps. Meanwhile, the rise of telemedicine and the need to access, store, and protect patient data is putting added pressure on health systems across the globe.

Long-term, Covid-19 will create a perfect storm of video sprawl and runaway storage costs. Cloud storage costs that start at a few hundred pounds a month may well balloon to a few hundred thousand pounds annually in the course of a few short years. To succeed in this data-intensive reality, organizations need an efficient and affordable way to expand storage infrastructure while improving data backup and recovery.

A new scale-out approach to storage will be essential. Such a system will enable organizations to purchase storage upfront at a reasonable price and then scale-out that storage cost-effectively over time.

We learnt from the zero trust model

For years, the famous security maxim was “trust by verify.” But now organizations embrace a zero-trust approach to security. They entirely remove trust from the equation and assume that everything - including users, endpoints, networks, and resources - is untrusted and must be verified. Only minimum permissions are granted at just the right time to get a job done, and then those permissions are revoked immediately after completing the assignment or transaction.

A similar approach will soon be embraced when it comes to data protection. Indeed, a new study by Enterprise Management Associates revealed that, given the rise of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, 60 percent of IT buyers have fast-tracked their deployment of zero-trust policies and technology over the last seven months.

Take, for instance, an employee who is requesting to have data recovered from their laptop. What are the real-time credentials certifying that this particular employee can restore a specific machine? What permissions were contained in the backup image, and do those permissions need to be changed to reflect current requirements? If IT is restoring a machine that was set up a month ago, who is ensuring that no one else has access to that machine?

A zero-trust approach to data backup and management will help answer these questions while further protecting enterprise data.

The need has emerged for data storage and backup to get more intelligent

Organizations large and small are now collecting massive amounts of machine learning and IoT data. For instance, think about all the data Tesla is currently collecting from its hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road as part of its effort to deliver real autonomous driving. Many companies are now doing the same, collecting and analysing oceans of data.

But here’s the burning question: If your company depends on collecting and analysing data to operate and succeed, what happens if that data is not fully backed up and easily recoverable? What happens if any of that data is lost? For a company like Tesla, any issues with data could result in inaccurate algorithm engines and off-kilter heuristics that could potentially put lives at risk.

Most companies are thinking mainly about data analysis and much less about data backup or security. But as data increasingly moves from analysis to production environments, that’s when protection becomes critical. Cutting-edge storage tools increasingly rely on AI and machine learning to automate the data backup process.

Given the exploding size of enterprise data, these intelligent tools are fast becoming vital for maintaining an efficient backup process that can quickly and effortlessly react to changing requirements, while saving untold hours on manual backups.

Final thoughts

The challenges faced by businesses in 2020 have had a significant impact on the way data is handled. With remote work environments generating massive amounts of critical data, the pressure to protect and store data safely, while also allowing for immediate access to data and online collaboration, is immense.

Over the course of 2020, we’ve already seen many organizations evolve and enhance digital environments to operate successfully. By adopting a modern approach to data storage, organizations will be empowered to thrive in a distributed work environment.