Device, Drug Makers Face Remote Office Backup Challenges

October 24, 2006

FDA-regulated life sciences companies that operate any remote offices or acquire other companies are facing increasing challenges when it comes to controlling edata and disparate operations, said experts at an Oct. 3 webinar sponsored by Avamar Technologies.

"Data at corporations is becoming increasingly distributed" via remote offices, said John McArthur, group vice president and general manager of Information Infrastructure and Enabling Technologies at IDC. For drug and device manufacturers, remote offices as defined by IDC would include sales offices, labs or plants, he said.

A few PIR readers and consultants have expressed concerns that virtualization may not hold up to scrutiny in validation and production environments. "I believe that both storage virtualization and virtual servers require careful analysis and study from a validation perspective," an IT staffer at a large pharmaceutical company told PIR.

Any effective remote storage system must have the means to verify that the "backup data is a true copy of the original data," McArthur said.

In the meantime, storage virtualization has entered the mainstream of operations for many large companies and will expand greatly within the next 12 months, said a recent white paper by IDC analysts (PIR, Aug. 16) (http://www.fdanews.com/pir/6_16/technology/58978-1.html).

IDC's survey found 19 percent of firms with more than 10,000 employees have already deployed storage virtualization, with another 30 percent planning it in the coming year. About one-third of companies with 1,000 to 10,000 employees plan to deploy storage virtualization in the coming year.

Increasing regulatory pressure to protect remote edata may push companies toward remote office backup and recovery with centralized management of many remote offices under a single point of control. Otherwise, companies risk ending up with "unstandardized, unaccessible and noncompliant environments," McArthur said.

Other best practices in remote office backup and recovery include:

Encryption of data in transit and at rest (most data on tape is not encrypted), and Storage of data in centralized, secure locations, with data retrieval achieved through remote replication.

McArthur also advised companies grappling with remote offices and edata issues to protect file and print servers, and reduce the amount of data backed up with data deduplication techniques. -- Michael Causey