Research Uncovers Uncertainty Amongst European IT Directors about Data Storage Regulations

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New research published today reveals that more than three-quarters (76%) of European IT directors believe that data storage is critical to enterprise business continuity. However, more than half (52%) of respondents surveyed don't know or disagree that compliance is forcing the increased uptake of data storage networking. These statistics are amongst the latest findings from a pan-European study commissioned by network specialist Ciena?, and demonstrate that although there is a general belief that storage networking over the Metropolitan or Wide Area Network (MAN/WAN) is imperative regardless of regulations, the majority of IT directors in Europe lack insight into how legislation may affect them and their corporate network requirements.

The study, which was executed by independent research firm Vanson Bourne and polled IT directors from companies across the UK, France, Germany and Spain, uncovered several issues and drivers behind the adoption of data storage in Europe. Respondents were selected from a cross section of companies from the financial, manufacturing, retail and other commercial sectors, and organisations with more than 1,000 employees.

Surprisingly, only 27 per cent of total survey respondents, mostly in the financial sector (35%), agreed that compliance and governance are forcing the data storage issue, indicating significant confusion about the drivers for storage technologies. European companies, particularly financial organisations or companies with international presence, are being obliged to electronically capture and maintain specified records for given periods of time under legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II. Therefore, compliance is now a critical matter that should be on European companies' agendas. Any misunderstanding about legislation can put companies at risk of non-compliance due to potentially inefficient electronic data storage and communications strategies.

Gary Smith, CEO and president of Ciena, said: "Legislation is a key factor propelling the deployment of data storage replication solutions for business continuity and disaster recovery applications in the US. However, it is not surprising that IT directors in Europe differ in opinion on the importance of this issue, because regulatory compliance is not yet mandatory for all industries in European regions."

"Although compliance is a headache for many companies, especially those that do not understand the full impact of regulations and implications of non-compliance, US regulations do have a knock on effect in Europe," continued Smith. "Therefore, in protecting an organization's integrity and operations, it becomes the responsibility of IT directors, as well as executive management, to be educated about data retention, protection requirements and implementation strategies."

On a broader scope, only 10 per cent of survey respondents viewed storage as a key issue facing enterprise communications technologies, although 76 per cent perceived data storage as critical to business continuity. Moreover, 48 per cent of these respondents chose reliability as the key factor in evaluating communications technologies, preferring this to cost (28%) and usability (13%). These figures illustrate a critical disconnect between overall enterprise IT infrastructure and storage networking solutions over the MAN/WAN environment, which is a necessity for data availability and business continuity.

When implementing efficient data storage networking, survey respondents indicated that a balance of price and performance is the largest influencing factor (41%) when making purchasing decisions, a point that reinforces the universal desire for first-class technology at the lowest possible cost. Additionally, a large contingent of respondents (40%) indicated they would choose to build a private network for connecting their data centres from a mix of services and equipment purchases versus leasing a wholly managed (13%) or unmanaged service (2%) from a carrier. This reflects the need for a tailored yet cost-effective solution that fits the enterprise's specific business needs, and also illustrates a level of uncertainty in allowing carriers to manage the storage of critical data.

Interestingly, though, when questioned about the principle benefits of specific storage extension technologies - storage-over-SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and storage-over-WDM (Wave Division Multiplexing) - 78 per cent of respondents were not sufficiently familiar with either technology to provide a response. Traditionally, IT managers never needed to know about WAN networking; now, a need exists for enterprise IT departments to be familiar with MAN/WAN networking technologies.

"Companies dependent on the high availability of mission critical networks, particularly financial and retail companies and organisations with several thousand employees, need reliable communications infrastructure to ensure real time data replication and to efficiently operate day-to-day on an uninterrupted basis," explained Smith. "At the same time, enterprises frequently assume budget constraints prevent the deployment of ideal storage solutions, and as a result IT directors fail to educate themselves on available options. We can evolve current enterprise WAN networking infrastructures for enhanced storage applications while preserving a realistic total cost of ownership."

Overall, the financial sector proved to be most well informed about data storage technologies as well as related legislation and regulatory requirements. However, there is still obvious confusion in this sector, as nearly half (45%) of those polled did not feel that compliance was a major factor driving storage networking. The reality is that IT directors across all sectors need to become more educated on the communication technologies that enable effective data storage and help ensure their organization complies with regulations.

In summary, enterprise storage solutions for business continuance and disaster recovery are key to companies in ensuring business uptime and growing regulatory demands. The challenge is cost-effectively extending applications between data centres while maintaining the performance needed for the business critical applications. As companies begin to meet standards required to comply with regulations, these technologies will become more prominent in network architectures.

"Ciena is a specialist in increasing the value of storage networks and has the MAN/WAN networking solutions to address these critical pain points across the city or across the continent," concluded Smith. "We're focused on helping enterprises improve their business by enabling leading-edge applications in business continuance and disaster recovery."

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