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Pandemic triggered data security movement to DBaaS

Database-as-a-service technology has aided enterprises tasked with keeping data secure with IT professionals working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need for remote access and tighter security over a year-plus of enterprises relying on work-from-home and hybrid workplace models has been a big opportunity for data vendors that had already been rolling out database as a service systems in recent years.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had an outsized impact on the world of data management in part because remote work hasn't always been the norm.

Administrators and organizations that had for decades only allowed access from systems within their own office spaces, in spring 2020 at the start of widespread stay-at-home directives, suddenly had to allow remote administration, often using a database as a service (DBaaS) system.

Moving online quickly

Beyond access, the challenges of adjusting business overall to the new normal of online-first, and in some cases online-only, put pressure on data management. Digital transformation efforts aimed at enabling an organization to be entirely online, accelerated out of necessity during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, perhaps more than ever before, security emerged as a key theme for many as the pandemic spread quickly in mid-2020.

One DBaaS vendor that has seen a surge in demand is the open source document-oriented database vendor MongoDB, which develops a cloud DBaaS, MongoDB Atlas.

Screenshot of the MongoDB Realm architecture for mobile database application
The MongoDB Realm architecture brings together the open source Realm mobile database with the MongoDB Cloud to synchronize mobile app data.

Data security is a key challenge

Andrew Davidson, vice president of cloud products at MongoDB, noted that the vendor has seen significant acceleration in organizations adopting the more modern zero-trust security paradigm that essentially assumes no perimeter is perfectly secure and instead implements isolation, access checks and auditing into every layer of IT infrastructure.

"This shift has been a boon for our global multi-cloud database service, MongoDB Atlas, which operates in line with this paradigm," Davidson said. "The data layer has always been the heart of the security concern and having a proven bedrock-reliable, secure data foundation to anchor on has been a relief for many companies."

In the post-pandemic era, we are likely to see organizations improving on their data security frameworks across the board, increasing usage of advanced security tools, hiring more security personnel and improving on best practices.
Noel YuhannaAnalyst, Forrester Research

Cloud-based security

DBaaS systems have enabled enterprises to operate databases securely, especially during the work-from-home pandemic period, said Tim Yim, vice president of cloud platform operations at open source relational database vendor MariaDB. Yim noted that during the pandemic enterprise customers have acquired MariaDB's SkySQL DBaaS faster than before.

"We've seen a dramatic shift in how quickly enterprise customers can approve SkySQL through their procurement processes," Yim said.

Yim noted that in a traditional on-premises installation, enterprise security approvals can sometimes take several weeks while that process is happening faster for the SkySQL DBaaS.

Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research, said companies the firm does business with have seen a marked increase in the number of inquiries related to data security for databases and data warehouses over the course of the pandemic, mostly with questions about best practices.

Yuhanna noted that many organizations have given data security the highest priority during the pandemic, especially those organizations that deal with highly sensitive personally identifiable information, personal health data and compliance data.

Among the ways that organizations have been improving data security is by enforcing stronger encryption-at-rest, encryption-in-motion, key management and access controls across various systems, whether they were on premises or in the cloud.

Enterprises -- especially in finance, healthcare, insurance and retail -- have been ramping up their security frameworks for databases, data warehouses and other data management applications to protect their sensitive data, Yuhanna said.

"In the post-pandemic era, we are likely to see organizations improving on their data security frameworks across the board, increasing usage of advanced security tools, hiring more security personnel and improving on best practices," he said.

Screenshot of MariaDB database for cloud applications
MariaDB X4 database architecture

Digital transformation continuing amid pandemic

But the pandemic actually has made it harder for IT professionals to get the right technology in place in order to deliver on digital transformation projects, according to a survey sponsored by NoSQL database vendor Couchbase released on April 7.

The survey of 450 digital architects in the U.S., U.K, France and Germany also found that nearly half the IT professionals said they have been under high pressure to deliver digital projects, up from only 19% before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, even with the pandemic-inspired challenges, the prospects for moving digital projects forward are not all gloomy, and many of the IT pros surveyed said they were able to make significant progress moving to the cloud from on-premises systems during the pandemic.

"I'd say the most surprising [finding] was that so many architects were still delivering digital transformation plans on schedule despite the pandemic," said Ravi Mayuram, CTO and senior vice president of engineering at Couchbase. "There's been a narrative of disruption, but even with the pandemic disrupting plans for many, it hasn't disrupted the trend we were seeing of more organizations moving from the planning phase of projects to getting digital transformation underway."

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