Last year caused dramatic levels of disruption to every aspect of people’s lives, from how they live to where and how they work. Businesses had their 2020 strategies completely disrupted and had to quickly pivot to equipping their employees to work from home.
Dan Middleton is Regional Vice President for UK&I at Veeam.
With so much uncertainty, combined with challenges that existed before the pandemic, such as digital skills shortages, UK businesses have had a lot to grapple with. To understand these challenges better, we surveyed over 3,000 business decision makers from around the world to get a sense of their current priorities for digital transformation, as well as their approach to data protection and management.
The digital divide
For many organizations, the pandemic has meant that the digital transformation projects planned for the next few years had to take place in a matter of months.
The Veeam Data Protection Report 2021 found that the ‘COVID-19 effect’ on digital transformation efforts has been nothing short of extraordinary, with over half (54%) of UK organizations accelerating their digital transformation initiatives as a direct result of the global crisis.
However, 89% of UK organizations stated that their current digital transformation initiatives faced impediments, with the main barriers to progress include maintaining operations during the pandemic (56%); dependency on legacy systems (49%); and a lack of IT skills (44%).
At its core, successful digital transformation is dependent on data and organizations are producing huge amounts of data. But without the right skills within the business to make the most of it, this information will remain more of a burden and untapped potential than an advantage. For businesses to be able to close their digital skill gaps, they need to understand the technology that will best support that work and invest in skills and training to provide a strong foundation.
Mind the gap
The majority of UK companies are now suffering from an “availability gap”, meaning that expectations about the speed they can recover their applications and services isn’t as fast as they need it to be, and could significantly impact on their business.
Some of those impacts can be massive. Just over half (56%) of organizations in the UK said that a loss of customer confidence was a potential impact of application downtime. 52% fear damage to brand integrity and over a third (41%) think this could result in a loss of employee confidence. A similar amount of UK companies are also suffering a “protection gap” between how frequently their data is backed up, versus how much data they can afford to lose after an outage. Veeam’s recent report found that 14% of all data held by organizations in the UK is not backed up, which given the consequences of what could happen should something go wrong, is alarmingly high.
Outages don’t always have malicious causes. In fact, IT infrastructure reliability is a more frequent factor. The most common causes of IT outages experienced in the past two years are server hardware (61%) and a combination of application software and storage hardware (57%) faults.
Resolving this starts with an impact assessment – firms should be getting a clear understanding of where disaster recovery fits within their overall IT strategy, and how they are using apps and data. Identifying this is key to maintaining consistent quality of service. From there, setting things like ideal recovery targets is much more straightforward. Businesses need to be prepared to ask tough questions of themselves, and proactively work to reduce their availability gap.
Protection, protection, protection
With so much change, maintaining customer service standards has been difficult for many businesses during the pandemic. But customers aren’t going to stay around for long if service slips or unavailable when needed – they’ll quickly start looking for alternatives if they don’t feel what they’re paying for lives up to their expectations. With 58% of all backup recoveries failing, this could soon be a reality for many businesses.
Keeping systems protected and available provides the strongest platform for employees to perform at their best, and helps businesses stay as agile as possible. Between more sophisticated cybercriminals and immense pressure to ensure governance on compliance, 2021 is already shaping up to be a minefield. While making lots of headlines, our research found that only 28% of UKI organizations see cybersecurity threats as a top challenge, falling behind economic uncertainty (36%), shortage of skills (32%) and meeting customer needs (32%).
With 37% of UK organizations seeing the ability to conduct disaster recovery via a cloud service as a defining aspect of modern data protection, being able to quickly restore services and data availability will prove to be incredibly valuable should an incident strike. Investing in technology that allows you to protect your data will mean your customers have more trust in you and will continue to turn to your business, rather than going elsewhere.
As we now edge closer to returning to offices and a hybrid working approach with restrictions easing across the UK over the coming months, businesses need to assess how they will operate. It is data protection that provides peace of mind and ensures business continuity. It is the backbone of any digital business – and thanks to the events of the past year, there is more of these businesses than ever. When you modernize production systems to enable a mobile workforce, and adopt multicloud services, you need to modernize your data protection.
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