Oman plans to be a safe haven for critical data

Business Monday 19/August/2019 22:07 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Oman is banking on its reputation as a friendly and peaceful nation as it plans to become a regional digital hub for disaster recovery services, offering to store backup copies of critical data for its neighbours.Should other countries in the GCC and the rest of the Arab region unfortunately lose their data owing to natural disasters, Oman will be able to provide them with a backup copy, ensuring they don’t have to spend precious time and money rebuilding their databases and thereby enabling services to resume more quickly.

Oman’s plans to become a data haven were raised by the nation’s Implementation, Support and Follow-up Unit (ISFU), the government organisation that is overseeing the country’s Tanfeedh plan for economic diversification. The plans were discussed during a recent Information and Communication Technology Lab spearheaded by ISFU.Plans to set up this hub are already underway, with public and private investment into this project expected to reach OMR25 million. The project also hopes to create more than 850 jobs.

Speaking to Times of Oman, an official from ISFU said: “Oman is the ideal country to providedisaster recovery services in the region, thanks to the unique geographical location of the Sultanate, which gives it a competitive advantage over its neighbours, in addition to its political stability. These services are defined as a facility used by the institutions to host their basic applications and data, in order to operate and recover them when they are not available in their original sources for any reason.”

He added: “In addition, the Sultanate can ideally provide these services as it is connected to most of the major submarine cable systems in the region. It is also connected to the Asia-Africa-Europe line, which is the new major link connecting more than six billion people through the internet.”

To gather further support and spread awareness of Oman’s plans to become a digital disaster recovery hub for the GCC and the region, the Omani government embarked on a promotional programme, in collaboration with other public agencies.The ISFU official said: “A promotional programme will be spearheaded by the Information Technology Authority in cooperation with the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa). The issuance of the Oman Data Protection Law will accelerate the implementation of this project.”

He added: “The work on this project has already started and is expected to continue for the next 5 years. The government and private investments in this project will reach OMR 25 million and will create more than 850 job opportunities by 2024. The lead implementer of this project is the Information Technology Authority. The key stakeholders are the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ithraa and the data centres which will be set up in Oman to store this information.”

ISFU also laid out how the backup centre would work during a disaster. Under normal conditions, the data recovery centres in Oman will be synced with the main data centres of the organisations responsible for uploading that data, wherever they are. This way, the information that is stored in the back-up data centres is up to date. During a natural disaster or an emergency, if the data in the main centres is lost, this can then be replenished by the back-up copies that are present in the data centre in Oman. Oman is one of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with the other nations being Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Commenting on the importance of disaster recovery, a spokesperson for the country’s Information Technology Authority (ITA) said such centres proved critical to restoring services in the aftermath of natural disasters.

He told Times of Oman, “Data recovery often acts as the saviour in disasters, and the cost of implementing data recovery is worth the value of protecting this data. These days, the presence of systems and ready data availability is particularly important to customers, because data recovery acts as a backup that may mitigate human errors. Since the demand for data recovery is increasing by an annual rate of more than 50 percent, there is a high demand for cross border data recovery, especially since some countries cannot meet the minimum requirements to have these systems within their own nation.”
He added: “A DR or a disaster recovery data centre is a facility an organisation can use to recover and restore its technological infrastructure and operations when its primary data centre becomes unavailable.”

Ramanuj Venkatesh, a financial analyst and risk manager in Oman, said that rebuilding lost databases often cost organisations time and money, which could be mitigated by investing in a fall-back plan.
“These days, everything is digitised, so if something happens to your data, be it either through natural disasters or cyber security lapses, then you could potentially spend millions of dollars and hundreds of hours just to get this back. All of this can be avoided if you have a sound back-up plan. Oman being a non-controversial and peaceful nation in the Middle East makes it a very good choice to have such a centre.”
He added: “This way, countries also don’t have to spend money on their own data centres and can rely on the back-ups available here. Building individual data centres could cost a lot of money, which could be allocated elsewhere, particularly if those needs are more pressing.This sort of cooperation will also lead to closer ties between these nations and Oman, since Oman has always had a role as an impartial mediator and a friendly nation to all.”