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Airgap: Data Protection in the Old Frontier

Posted by Tony Ocampo on Jan 7, 2020 10:00:00 AM

With all the talk about ransomware and cybersecurity breaches, many have wondered – what data protection strategy should I be deploying? How can I ensure that I have another copy of my data that is isolated (and by isolated, I mean that if ransomware does crypto-lock my data, I can go to my “safe deposit box” and restore my data center)? Ironically, we have been preaching to our customers over the last few years that tape is dead and should be replaced with disk-based backup storage or cloud repositories for long-term retention. Now I have to face those same customers and tell them that the best way to airgap their data is to archive their backups to tape. Yes, it sounds old school, but it is the best way to remain protected from all the modern threats to your data.

Many organizations that become victims of ransomware attacks are horrified to discover that when they need to restore their data, their backups are also compromised. Alas, the backups they believed they could rely on when things go wrong are not there to save the day. In these situations, IT organizations are often lost on what to do next. System admins all the way to the CIO huddle up together, asking questions and trying to come up with the answers as they wipe beads of cold sweat from their foreheads and face the same dreaded feeling: This is a catastrophe.

Airgap is now a buzzword in the world of data protection, born from the prolific existence of ransomware. Airgapping is a physical or logical way of separating a copy of the data from the primary production environment by only making it accessible through the completion of a manual task (such as loading a physical tape to a drive) or activating a storage system’s network connection in a bubble environment. Essentially, it involves a tedious and/or manual process to retrieve the “golden” copy of data. The industry has helped this process evolve over time, and now many backup system manufacturers are offering solutions that automate this process or support tape out features.

Many organizations view airgapping as yet another cost and technology to manage. Not only does it increase operational costs and tasks, but it’s also yet another thing to worry about. But the reality is that ransomware attacks can have reverberating effects on your business and community. It is crippling to your organization and without an airgap strategy, it could be the end state. But it shouldn’t be. Every organization has to place their bets on the table of cybersecurity, but even if you wind up with a losing hand, you still have to be able to respond to save the day.

To sum it all up, organizations must include a data protection strategy that includes airgap in a holistic cybersecurity posture. Without it, all your data could end up swaying in the wind—with no way to get it back.



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Topics: Data Center, Data Protection