Comparatively Speaking

How much are you willing to invest in securing your corporate data? Maybe that depends on how it’s being stored.

 Just for a moment suspend your understanding on how data storage mediums have increased in capacity during last quarter of a century or so. Imagine that we hit ‘peak storage technology’ with that plucky little device known as the 3.5” floppy disk drive.

Although they have now been long forgotten, with the exception that their icon is still mysteriously used for the save function in MS Office, or are used as ironic coasters in IT departments around the globe, these devices once held the most sensitive and valuable data that companies had.

One of the big challenges for all those in cyber security is to try and make the intangibility of vast quantities of data tangible, so that appropriate controls and mechanisms can be put in place to preserve and protect it. As almost everybody in middle to senior management today will have some recollection or awareness of a 3.5” floppy disk then it is a handy reference point for me to use in the following rather silly example – but please stay with me on this…

Those little disks, if you got the HD (high density) version, could store a whopping great 1.44MB (megabytes) of data. To put that into perspective a single photograph taken on my iPhone would need at least two 3.5” disks to get all its bytes safely stored. So, the question I pose is how many 3.5” disks would you need to get 1TB (terabyte) worth of storage? Now I pick on 1TB as that is the capacity of the internal hard drive of my Mac, and companies everywhere have Macs and PCs and servers laden with 1TB capacity hard drives.

Let’s crunch a few numbers. For the sake of this example lets go with the round numbers that 1TB is equal to 1000GB (gigabytes), and 1GB is equal to 1000MB, meaning that 1TB is a simple 1,000,000MB. Divide that by the 1.44MB capacity of the floppy disk and you get the slightly less round number of 694,445. So that’s it, pop onto Amazon as they still sell 3.5” disks from Imation and place an order. They will sell you a nice new box of 10 disks for £16.93 with free delivery if you are an Amazon Prime member. Our 1TB storage solution is going to total up to around £1,175,695.38

It would be worth in this instance taking up that free delivery, because if you do order your 1TB floppy disk storage solution it’s going to arrive in a van, actually, more than one. As each disk weighs in at just 22g, according to a quick test I did on my kitchen scales, this means if you buy the required 694,445 of them, it comes in at a weighty 15,277.79 kg – or 15.3 metric tonnes of pure disk fun. This calculation does exclude packaging, which is going to add a bit more. If your tsunami of storage was to be delivered by that legend of the delivery world, a white Transit van, then as it has a gross payload capacity of 991kg (thanks Google) means that if you factor in 2 pallets per van to put them all on, and each pallet has a maximum load of 500kg we are going to need, for the sake of arguments, 16 gleaming Transits to rock up to the front door of your business!

Oh, hang on, silly me – what about backup! We are not going to surely just have one copy of each! Shall we do like we did in the old days when we made a backup disk of important data! So, would it be wise to double or disk order? Or perhaps with compression and de-duplication technologies we can get it down to about 50% for a full backup. What do you think? Let’s go with that.

Now we need another 347,222 disks, 8 more Transits and an additional expenditure of £587,847.69

Once they arrive then what are you going to do with them? You better store them somewhere! Probably in some cavernous storage facility that is akin to the final scene of Raiders of The Lost Ark. You’ll need staff to keep them organised, to label them all. Plus, then there would be the security to consider! (finally, I hear you cry).

If you did invest in such a storage solution as this, and please, please don’t! Access to the ‘storage facility’ would be fearlessly controlled. If 50, 100 or 500 disks were ‘lost’ an enquiry would be undertaken as to where they had gone. Disks containing sensitive material, such as passwords, or financial data would more than likely have even more security around it.

But that’s enough now, I’m not going to choke the last remaining breath of this exasperated metaphor.

In today’s world, and again using Amazon as my benchmark, you can buy a Western Digital Blue 1TB Desktop Hard Disk Drive – 7200 RPM – and it will set you back only £41.98. Same storage capacity as my daft example, but a vastly different price bracket.

You see I think that companies everywhere attribute the value of data, and hence the investment in its protection, by the purchase price of the chosen storage medium on which it resides. And remember data is ‘just’ data. A Microsoft Word document that contains company sensitive data is the same data regardless if it’s stored on a physical 3.5” floppy disk or an intangible cloud based storage solution and thus should be protected accordingly from all cyber related threats.

Ask yourself, if your IT manager asked for a multimillion pound storage solution and didn’t bother with security you’d have to have a quiet word with him, but a £41.98 1TB hard drive from Amazon, do you really need to bother with cyber security?

Comparatively speaking, yes you do!

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