Small businesses and large enterprises alike need to upgrade their storage regularly to keep pace with technological advances. It can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you always try to get the newest technology, most sought-after features, or fastest storage available. And this approach can lead to expensive storage implementations that go far and beyond what the company actually needs. For that reason, it’s best to start at the ground level and first understand your company’s requirements rather than try to keep up with the Joneses. Mike Matchett, senior analyst and consultant with the Taneja Group, says you need to determine from the start “what kinds of data need upgraded storage, how fast that data is growing, what kind of performance is needed now and when workload grows, how reliable or available the data needs to be, and” whether or not “it needs to be shared or accessible in multiple locations.” It’s a lot to think about, but it’s much better to plan ahead than to realize you have too much or too little storage when you really need it.
Matchett stresses the importance of understanding that “your data profile is changing over time.” He says that one type of data may grow faster than another, which means they’ll need different levels of storage performance to operate effectively. You have to consider how mobile your workforce is or needs to be, decide whether or not you want to implement cloud services, and how virtualization could affect your overall storage approach. “There are several ways to address capacity challenges, including compression, thin provisioning, deduplication, space reclamation, active archiving and better lifecycle management,” says Matchett. “Performance today can be improved through the judicious addition of flash solutions ranging from both pure flash and hybrid storage to serverside flash cards. Many storage systems are becoming more application aware and can provide direct storage features intimately aligned with databases and virtual hypervisors. And of course, there are cloud storage options to consider for their economics, distributed access, and provisioning agility.”
Before a storage upgrade, you should consider what types of technology you want to support and what storage capacity you’ll need for your organization’s data and applications now and in the years to come. If you perform a careful step-by-step analysis to consider where storage upgrades will do the most good, you can ensure a high level of performance without going over budget.
Most companies are doing some level of virtualization in order to increase efficiency and encourage consolidation,
which “go together like peanut butter and jelly, but also have to be productive and effective,” according to Greg Schulz, senior advisory analyst and founder of StorageIO Group. This means that as you consolidate down to fewer servers and invest in newer, more efficient models, you have to remember that you’re also consolidating “applications, workloads, performance demands, and other characteristics,” Schulz says. He warns that so much “aggregation can cause aggravation” in the form of performance bottlenecks. That’s why it’s crucial to focus not only on the new hardware, but also the software as well. “Look for storage that is virtual server friendly,” says Schulz. “The storage system should have optimizing capabilities, whether it’s solid state drives and caching or it’s caching software within the storage system, but also the ability to work with software on the servers to eliminate I/O issues. The best I/O optimization is the one you don’t have to do. The second best is the one that has the least impact.”
SCALABLE STORAGE SYSTEMS & LARGE DISK ARRAYS
Companies of all sizes are dealing with more data than ever before. Not only are applications and software
solutions getting bigger as they add more features and functionality, but the growing use of big data in the business
world makes it necessary to maintain large amounts of information. The answer, for some companies, is to add more drives to the disk array in order to reach the total capacity needed to hold information. But if you’re going through the storage upgrade process, it may be time to consider alternative strategies.
BACKUP SERVERS & OFFSITE ARCHIVING
Backing up and archiving data is a fact of life for all companies, whether you need them for internal reasons or
to meet the regulatory compliances of your industry. Schulz stresses the importance of looking at backup servers
and other backup storage solutions differently than databases, for instance, because they require a different level of
HARD-DISK VERSUS SSD
It’s also crucial to make sure that the cost of your solid-state upgrade fits in with your overall business strategy.
You may want the higher bandwidth, lower response time, or other features that solid-state can provide, but you need to first prove it at a smaller scale before applying it to other aspects of your company.
NETWORK-BASED STORAGE UPGRADES
As companies embrace cloud computing, colocation, hosting services, and other Internet-reliant technologies, it’s important to boost networking performance however you can. One example, Matchett says, is to add networking flash solutions in between servers and storage arrays to “provide a performance boost that is not only transparent to both the server and array, but avoids integrating relatively expensive flash into existing server and storage assets.” He adds that this will not only benefit your existing hardware, but also “any new storage or servers deployments” in the future.
On the other side of the equation, which revolves around using network based storage solutions to provide sharable capacity for multiple users, companies can consider NAS (network attached storage) and other technologies that make it possible for multiple users to easily share data over the network. This makes it possible for workers to collaborate on projects and access the same files regardless of location, but it also makes it possible for faster interoffice file-sharing. The key is to make sure that you have the proper capacity to support the number of users you have, but also that your network is fast enough to provide solid performance and a good user experience.