Solving Storage Challenges Within Budget

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With the data of all technology users — whether professionals or at-home hacks — increasing at record rates, storage has become a critical consideration. Enterprise businesses are first to allocate money for storage expansion. But, small and midsized businesses that outgrow their storage solutions quicker than they set strategy to leverage their information assets often do not have the resources or long-term desire to invest in a specific capacity upgrade.

“For every company, budget is a huge challenge because the pace of data growth each year is 50 to 70 percent with most companies, 100 percent in data-intensive industries,” said Andrew Reichman, an analyst at Forrester Research.

IP Storage
Storage need not be one more thing SMBs noodle about. IP-based storage is less expensive than hardware-intensive solutions and easier to manage. It also synchs well with Windows servers.

“Instead of using hardware, with IP-based storage, each component — cabling, switches, arrays — is less expensive,” he said. The acquisition costs are lower, as is the difficulty in finding a staff person to manage the solution.

In addition, the industry’s big IP storage vendor, EMC Corp., is being challenged by smaller competitors, such as EqualLogic, Compellent and LeftHand Networks, driving prices to fit almost any budget.

“These smaller competitors are challenging the dominant players with a focus on SMB. Their entry point to the market is SMB, although they have products to answer enterprise needs, too,” Reichman said.

Modular Storage
Isilon Systems Inc., Compellent, EqualLogic and LeftHand Networks offer modular storage as well. For organizations that want to cluster their data across the firm, “modular storage is easier for small companies to manage their investment in a storage solution,” he said. “It is easy to grow and modify as the company changes.”

Optimizing Current Storage Solutions
For organizations at which data storage is siloed by hardware resources or managerial structure, allocated capacity often goes unused. Determining where empty pockets of storage are and transferring files into them can be a chore.

“A lot of companies currently struggle to see who has what in storage capacity,” Reichman said. “A lot of major systems are pretty inflexible to managing capacity of storage. Data written and used is only utilizing 30 to 40 percent of storage capability.”

This inflexibility puts the squeeze on budgets. “A lot of companies are spending too much because they don’t have visibility; they don’t know how much they’re overspending,” he said. “A lot of allocated storage ends up sitting fallow.”

Some companies give up the fight to their current systems and invest in more storage resources. Even though disk-based storage has dropped in price, “the cost of delivering storage is very expensive,” he said, noting that 15 percent to 20 percent of an IT budget typically goes to data storage. Inadvertent storage replication and erroneous human resources in data management mean these funds have been spent inefficiently.

Fortunately, the leading vendors have enhanced their offerings with reporting features that highlight available capacity and alert data managers to when additional resources are needed. Rather than forecasting storage capacity needs, automated storage provisioning commits data to storage (usually server disk drive space) as the data is created. This real-time assignment of resources has allowed dramatic cost savings, said Reichman, and optimized the performance of a storage area networks (SANs) without expending human resources on a manual process.

Bringing It in on Budget
“There are a lot of good opportunities out there for simplifying storage,” he said. “They let you see things better, manage storage resources better and get more value out of what you have available with storage.”

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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