Data Recovery Q&A With Kathy Ahuja at Qumulo

Enterprise data is at constant risk of physical destruction, cyber attacks, and theft or unexpected system or hardware failure. To mitigate these risks, enterprises need to create a thorough strategy to recover their data in any situation, including backup strategies. 

In this executive Q&A, Enterprise Storage Forum interviewed Kathy Ahuja of Qumulo and received her insights on data recovery within the enterprise. Ahuja recommends, for instance, being intentional when protecting enterprise data from ransomware and avoiding vendor hardware or software lock-in: 

Kathy Ahuja

Kathy Ahuja. Courtesy Qumulo.
Kathy Ahuja. Courtesy Qumulo.

Kathy Ahuja is VP of information security at Qumulo, where she provides security and compliance guidance across the company in accordance with industry standards, regulatory requirements, and best security practices. Ahuja has over 20 years of security compliance and information technology experience, with over 15 years of that in roles specific to security compliance in technology companies. Prior to Qumulo, she built and ran security and compliance efforts at OneLogin, DocuSign, Microsoft, Oracle, and Symantec.

Data recovery Q&A

The data recovery market 

Enterprise Storage Forum: How did you first start working in the data recovery market? 

Ahuja: I have been working in the information security space for more than 20 years. You might say that any information security professional is associated with the data recovery market by default, since data recovery is a fundamental information security requirement. An organization’s ability to recover data easily helps ensure the integrity and availability of data. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite thing about working at Qumulo? 

Ahuja: I have two favorite things: the people and the work ethic. People at Qumulo genuinely care about making our solutions as simple as possible for customers.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What sets Qumulo’s approach to data recovery apart from the competition? 

Ahuja: Qumulo’s data recovery solution is unique, because it’s hardware- and software-agnostic and can fit into any existing business continuity strategy seamlessly. Qumulo cuts down the time it takes to backup large datasets from hours to minutes to make sure that critical data is never compromised. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one key data recovery technology that particularly interests you? 

Ahuja: One exciting technology is erasure coding, which eliminates the need for recovery in the first place. With erasure coding, storage systems can lose entire nodes without losing data and operations can continue. This addresses the most common type of failure, hardware outages, by creating a system that expects hardware to fail at some point and is designed to avoid impact when it does eventually occur.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one data recovery technique that teams should implement? 

Ahuja: Backup is the most essential data recovery technology for any business. There are many solutions and countless vendors that will tell you that one technology is more valuable over another, but backup is the fundamental technology for any business’s data recovery efforts.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one data recovery strategy that companies should implement? 

Ahuja: Don’t use a vendor that requires your organization to lock into one particular hardware or software to support data backup and recovery work. Having multiple backup locations for your critical data promotes the highest levels of assurance for data availability.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is the biggest data recovery mistake you see enterprises making?

Ahuja: The biggest data recovery mistake that organizations make is not having a comprehensive, end-to-end data loss prevention strategy that targets data loss both proactively and reactively. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What are some current trends in the data recovery market that are promising? 

Ahuja: One promising trend in the market is replication from on-prem clusters to as-a-service clusters in the public cloud. Replication, particularly continuous replication technologies, allow for recovery of the entire site in the event of a major data center-wide outage.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What are the biggest factors that are driving change in data recovery? 

Ahuja: The biggest factor driving change in data recovery is the sheer scale and size of modern datasets. Technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence produce tons of data, and the amount of new data being produced every day is growing exponentially. Data recovery organizations are now tasked with creating cost-effective recovery solutions that can scale to backup massive datasets without limits.

Enterprise Storage Forum: How has data recovery changed during your time in the market? 

Ahuja: It’s changed significantly. Companies used to only be thinking about their most critical data for backups – data like financial information, business data, and customer contact information. Organizations should still be thinking about this data – but now we have tons more data at our disposal that needs to be taken into account. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: Where do you predict the data recovery market will be 5 or 10 years from now? 

Ahuja: In recent years, we’ve seen more organizations tap into data mining to create models that help determine how to run their business into the future, and I predict that data recovery solutions will evolve over the next five to 10 years to optimize protecting that kind of data at a massive scale. Organizations and their technology solutions will evolve to become more forward thinking, knowing that if they lose that predictive data, they lose their key to the future.

Personnel in data recovery 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one data recovery technology your team wants professionals to know? 

Ahuja: Ransomware is one of the most destructive and costly risks that administrators face. Because ransomware attacks are so intentional, IT teams need to be similarly intentional when dealing with these kinds of attacks. Backup, replication, and snapshots are all good recovery technologies that all data recovery professionals should know. Like the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” make sure your enterprise is using the latest software to manage your data and tighten your security with encryption certified by third parties for maximum effectiveness.

Enterprise Storage Forum: If you could give one piece of advice to a data recovery professional in the beginning of their career, what would it be? 

Ahuja: Always be thinking about the entire data life cycle as your responsibility. There are many processes within the data life cycle: retention, protection, backup, recovery – and while all are equally important, it’s never enough to be focused on just one step at a time. In order to be a good steward for data in your organization, you must be constantly governing every step in the data life cycle. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: With the shortage of tech talent, how is your team finding and retaining professionals to work in data recovery? 

Ahuja: We are always looking out for people who work in all different areas of technology. Technologists aren’t always just engineers, but they’re people who have a good understanding of how data is managed – or should be managed – within their organization. I believe that security, compliance, and data management are highly teachable skills, and we bring this up frequently in my work on the board of Computing For All, an organization that promotes early tech career training in Washington state. It’s important to remember that data-focused employees can come from all different roles within the technology spectrum.

Enterprise Storage Forum: For the greatest business impact, what should data recovery professionals be focusing on most in their roles? 

Ahuja: I’m bringing this back to the data life cycle again, because it’s so incredibly important. The phrase “your chain is only as strong as your weakest link” applies here. Organizations might have robust processes for protecting data as it’s captured and maintained, but might fall short when it comes to processes like data archiving and retrieval. For the greatest business impact, data recovery professionals need to be consistent with ensuring that data recovery is strong at every step in the data life cycle. 

Work life

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your top professional accomplishments? 

Ahuja: I was one of the pioneers in the federal security compliance space back in 2014 during the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), a government-wide program that provided a standardized approach to security assessment for cloud services. I worked for Microsoft at the time, and I ran their first accreditation. Since then, I’ve helped many companies determine how to prove their security footprint to customers and third parties. I take pride in being able to help evolve the narrative around how security and trust go together to be able to assure customers that they’re choosing the right vendor to protect their information.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite part of working in the data management market? 

Ahuja: My favorite part of working in this field is the motivation in knowing that if data is not managed properly, then business doesn’t run the way it’s supposed to. Data is in many ways the heartbeat of a business – and I take pride in knowing that my job revolves around an organization’s critical functions. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your favorite parts of the work week? How does it encourage or inspire you?

Ahuja: I always look forward to any opportunity to talk to our customers. I love hearing about how Qumulo helps them and reminding them of the ways that we’re thinking about protecting and elevating their data to create real-world impacts. And of course I love Fridays, too.

Enterprise Storage Forum: Do you have a favorite way to recharge during the workday? 

Ahuja: I love going for a walk during the workday. It’s the best way to take my mind off of my phone or my work and clear my head, distraction free.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What are your favorite hobbies or ways to spend time outside of work?

Ahuja: I have a very old and very cute dog named Bruno and enjoy taking him for walks. He doesn’t go very fast, which gives me time to slow down and recharge. I also love to cook and socialize with my friends.

To learn more about recovery, read What is Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service? 

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