Protecting IoT Data Should Be a Top Priority

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Several weeks ago, I had a déjà vu moment when daughters #2 and #3 decided to follow their older sisters’ footsteps and attend out-of-state colleges in the fall. On one hand, I was proud of their accomplishments and independent spirit. On the other, I was saddened to learn they’ll be going to school far from home. We’re a very connected family, literally and figuratively.

While still ruminating over how best to stay connected with my next round of college-bound children, I had a really interesting conversation with Ken Clipperton, managing analyst for DCIG. As luck would have it, Ken knows a thing or two about staying connected with college students.

Before becoming an industry analyst, Ken served as director of IT at Midland University in Fremont, Neb. During his tenure, he participated in a variety of high-profile technology projects, including one that took advantage of existing data to offer a fresh perspective on student retention.

It all started when the university revisited its processes for gauging student engagement. Turns out that in addition to early alert reports pulled from the school’s ERP system, insight could be gleaned from sensor-enabled ID tags used by students to gain access to campus buildings, including the library, study halls, student center, cafeteria, etc.

For years, the university collected and then routinely deleted this access data as it wasn’t considered useful. But that all changed when the team correlated the access data with a student’s level of engagement and discovered a direct link between student involvement and how well they were doing in school. It also helped the university devise an early intervention plan for at-risk students.

This got me thinking: how much IoT-enabled data do companies have laying around that they aren’t protecting because they don’t think it’s worthy? It’s time for IT administrators to come to grips with the importance of protecting IoT data. Of course, they first need to understand how IoT impacts their production environment, which is no small feat, given the mountains of machine-generated data produced daily.

That’s why we recommend that companies perform a business impact analysis (BIA) to help assess the existing data protection environment and measure the impact of their evolving plans for IoT. A BIA is an excellent tool for helping weigh the pros and cons of protecting data on IoT machines and devices. It’s also a solid starting point for shedding light on which IoT data best supports the mission of the organization.

Part of the beauty of the Midland University example is its simplicity, as student retention is core to the college’s mission to inspire lifelong learning. What’s also powerful is the link between access card data and student retention wasn’t initially intuitive, yet the direct correlation proved otherwise.

Once the connection to the organization’s mission is clear, the IT team can determine how to apply backup, recovery, deduplication and primary/secondary storage in support of IoT-enabled data and devices. Every organization should go through a similar exercise before answering the question: If we had to recover IoT data as we currently recover data on a computer or server, how would we do it?

It’s becoming increasingly critical to safeguard data generated by non-traditional computing devices and address the best way to recover it should a catastrophic event occur. After all, isn’t the promise of IoT that we’ll have seemingly endless opportunities to collect and use all sorts of machine-generated data for new and meaningful insights?

The tricky part is balancing the business need and data protection requirement to safeguard non-traditional computing device types, such as VoIP phones, cameras, sensors, machines—and even access card readers, as Midland University learned firsthand. Equally important is taking a fresh look at all your data as you may realize that taking advantage of data you already have could be key to unlocking new universal truths about your business.

At Dell, we recognize the need to continually remove inherent complexities when it comes to keeping all types of data safe and sound. Let’s face it, you never know if new non-traditional devices hold simple configuration parameters or meaningful business insights and transaction data until you delve deeper into how it could be used.

So, don’t underestimate the need to change your data protection strategy to keep up with evolving IoT business needs. What are you doing to safeguard your IoT data?

Connect with me at to share your thoughts.

About the Author: Michael Grant

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