Taking a Hard Look At Storage Costs - EnterpriseStorageForum.com

Taking a Hard Look At Storage Costs

Given how cheap storage has become, it's understandable that enterprises are expanding arrays to house growing data. But stocking up on hardware and software to hold more and more information is a costly misstep, according to a Gartner report released yesterday.

Compliance regulations and legal concerns are pressuring IT to keep every bit and byte of data just in case a litigation issue arises, and since storage costs are decreasing, the urge to push another box into play can be tempting.

The problem is that data growth will very quickly outpace the savings in storage, according to Whit Andrews, an analyst at Gartner (NYSE: IT).

"It's time for companies to modernize storage strategies and understand how information access technology can be a good tool for making sure they need what they're keeping," said Andrews.

What Storage Costs

According to Gartner, the highest reported price in the first quarter of this year for managed storage was $12.50 per gigabyte per month, and the lowest was $0.29 per gigabyte per month for archive storage needs.

A recent survey of Gartner clients found that none expected their storage budget to decrease this year, and that 67 percent expected their budget for storage hardware to increase. Of those polled, 64 percent also expected storage software costs to increase as well.

Just a quick look at backup storage provides a clear view of how storage costs are decreasing. Prices dropped by about 30 percent from 2006 to 2008, according to Gartner.

But then cheap storage isn't really cheap when additional management costs and increased power and cooling costs are factored in.

Enterprises that choose to retain everything run the risk of significant future costs, Gartner reported. Also, the longer information is saved, the harder it is to discern value, according to the survey.

Information-Access Tools

Companies need to create a clear distinction about which data should be saved on primary storage and what data should be housed on cheaper secondary storage, as the costs vary greatly in terms of hardware and software.

Gartner provided a scenario, using a rough estimate of $5 per gigabyte for backup storage and a generation rate of 10 gigabytes per employee per year. A 5,000-worker company faces annual costs of $1.25 million for five years of storage with those numbers. Cutting the amount of data by 80 percent could save about $1 million for five years and lower the organization's liability, noted the report.

Information-access technologies include a wide range of tools such as enterprise search, content analytics and social search. Integration and deployment typically require some expertise, such as an information architect, to get the tools in place and working well, Andrews explained. And it's not cheap, either, as products can range from $10,000 to millions for advanced applications.

Still, companies can offset the costs through storage savings, as well as benefits from improved business processes.

The first step, according to Gartner, is to initiate and develop a content valuation process. "This is determining what's important to keep and how a company decides what to keep," explained Andrews.

"It means establishing criteria on what data is to be stored, where and why," he added. "Cheap storage is expensive when it's storing data that doesn't need to be stored."

A good best practice is to establish a content-valuation policy on legacy data and make sure that what's stored requires that storage investment.

While some enterprises are using information-access technologies, the majority aren't at this point, according to the research firm. But sooner or later companies will realize the waste taking place in storage and the costs of retaining data that has no value, Andrews said.

He added, "Is what you're storing on tape valuable at this point, because if it's not, then you don't need it."

Article courtesy of Internet News

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