Why businesses must have a plan for the impact of 5G on data storage & security


The fifth generation of cellular networks – or 5G – is theoretically up to 100 times faster than 4G, with 40 times lower latency. The improved network capacity will seamlessly support more connected devices and increased bandwidth for transmitting larger quantities of data. And it is rapidly growing in prominence, with recent research showing that in 2021, 5G coverage grew by a whopping 350 percent to cover 1,336 cities. As a result, 30 percent of the world’s countries now have 5G coverage. A year prior, there were only 378 cities with 5G.

5G will enable greater business agility and allow for the adoption of extended reality, cloud gaming anywhere on any device, remote medical check-ups, self-driving cars and much more. Faster speed will create more innovation opportunities for businesses, which they should be able to carry out in less time.

Many companies are already taking advantage of private 5G and more will follow. Over half of the organisations surveyed in a recent Economist Impact study say they plan to deploy a private 5G network in the next 24 months. The desire for 5G is especially strong in automotive and industrial settings, where the technology can be used to aid smart manufacturing.

But there’s a catch.

Greater speeds and ubiquitous access will result in more data being generated, placing a greater strain on security systems, and leading to storage capacity challenges. To harness the full value of 5G, organisations will need to address these two areas.


5G leads to more points of attack

The advantages that make 5G so enticing also present further security risks. 5G has greater capacity and lower latency than 4G. It operates on a frequency with shorter wavelengths, allowing it to carry data much faster, but over a shorter range than 4G. That’s why 5G networks require many more access points, which inherently widen the attack surface and offer more opportunities for businesses to be exploited.

Historically, organisations might have been able to get away with adding a firewall to these points of access. But given their already limited visibility of traditional firewalls, they aren’t enough once you start adding more access points.

Any security system has to not only process large quantities of data, but scale to meet demand. To ensure optimal logging and monitoring, consider implementing policy-based control over network access points.

Unfortunately, simply adopting a 5G network increases operational complexity 50-fold, so businesses may very well need to increase the number of nodes they’re monitoring – likely driving up costs enormously. To lessen the burden of this situation, it may be time for businesses to re-evaluate their procurement method. Opting to pay per gigabyte of data processed rather than per access node may be in your organisation’s best interest.


5G will lead to fluctuating storage demands

As network capacity increases, so will the use of that capacity. This will result in the consumption of more storage. There’s going to be some downstream effects.

Organisations will need to take a closer look at everything from storage tiering and ephemeral storage to long-term storage and distribution. They will need to re-prioritise how they classify data to meet their compliance objectives. Budgeting long-term storage, establishing tiering profiles to ensure the most important data is safeguarded and easily accessible and determining where data should be stored becomes even more critical.

5G will be the IoT transformation enabler. Many sensors will be returning data to centralised locations for analysis by machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. This will require large amounts of storage.

Additionally, these data sets are often ephemeral in nature – for instance, weather and traffic patterns are constantly changing – and as such, processing speed becomes key.

As the value of this data grows, securing it becomes paramount. But larger data sets will also make recovery times more challenging. Therefore, businesses will likely need multiple copies of the data, further increasing storage capacity and costs, as well as the need for efficient data networks to transport it.

As storage demands fluctuate, companies must look to procure a storage infrastructure that can scale up and down. Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) storage consumption models, like taking advantage of the cloud, make the most sense. With its capacities, scalability, native capabilities and procurement models, the cloud is perfect for large storage, data protections and computational analysis.


Planning for 5G

5G is a game changer and will only further accelerate digital transformation. For businesses, this will enhance efficiency and promote innovation.

But as the number of connected devices – and data they produce – grows, so will our reliance on this data. And when that happens, addressing availability, recoverability and protection will become that much more important.

Managing attack point growth and planning for shifting storage demands will enable businesses to address availability, recoverability and protection – all of which are vital in planning for 5G. If companies don’t, the cost of 5G might overshadow the benefits.