It's Not Easy Being a Customer


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In today's evolving business environment, organizations face increasingly complex and demanding enterprise storage challenges including disaster recovery, backup and restore, data migration, high availability, and scalability. So, what are the most common problems facing customers when they decide to implement a storage solution? We talked to several industry experts and storage customers to find out what they thought.

Education as a key issue
As companies continue to look for inexpensive, high-performance storage solutions, they will need to educate themselves about these new technologies before they can readily accept them. Many industry experts agree that most vendors do not spend enough time educating their customers on their products and services thereby customers do not fully understand how these new technologies can help their businesses. In addition, because the exponential growth of data safekeeping requirements prompts the need for rapid solution implementation and choice making, Scott Kennedy, president of strategic business development at Softek, agrees that the most common problem facing customers in deciding on a new storage solution for their business is lack of knowledge about the product or service. "The knowledge of your existing staff in understanding new technologies is a very key issue facing storage customers today," says Kennedy. Kennedy believes that as more and more organizations realize that implementation requires more time and is more difficult than they originally thought, they need to accept the need to not only educate themselves, but to be able to accept implementation assistance through professional services integration.

Todd Viegut, vice president of marketing at Storage Computer Corporation, agrees that education as well as the proper scoping of an organization's specific requirements is vital to implementing a successful storage solution. This is easily seen because storage made available at the departmental level for expanded desktop space is significantly different than storage required for financial transactional management versus that for archiving and disaster recovery. He believes that many IT managers tend to get caught up in the latest craze, when they should be educating themselves on their company's specific needs and how best to fulfill those needs. "Quite often we see customer prospects asking for features and functions that will never be implemented within the application they are acquiring storage for," he concluded.

Compatibility is critical
Being able to make critical decisions concerning the future of your companys network storage needs seems to be another challenge facing customers. According to Vince Kistler, vice president of operations for Storage Access, most of his customers have difficulty trying to integrate various generations of incompatible hardware and software from different vendors.

Steven Toole, vice president of marketing at Precise WQuinn agrees. "One of the most common problems we see is the lack of standards and compatibility," says Toole. For example, says Toole, some SRM products use a proprietary database to maintain storage polices, which not only reinvents the wheel but can also create compatibility problems. Toole says that SRM solutions that use standard technologies such as Microsoft Active Directory not only leverage proven technology but also enhance the overall usability of the technology already in place. "I'd caution anyone considering non-standard technology that's not only unproven but also redundant and unnecessary as this is where incompatibility issues are born," says Toole.

Kistler also cautions that while mid-sized organizations are faced with the high cost of installing infrastructure that will meet their immediate needs and yet scale with the growth of their company, larger enterprises often have various departments and multiple locations that require all encompassing solutions, both of these challenges depend on compatibility.

Many of the common problems that arise when implementing storage solutions happen when an organization deploys certain server/HBA/Switch/OS/storage from different manufacturers. Again, this is a compatibility issue. According to Softek's Tabellion, customers must be aware of the incompatibilities that exist in this complex matrix. "The storage management software layer uses a common console for the management of these heterogeneous solutions, reducing the complexity of the underlying solutions," says Tabellion. "As new components are added to the storage solution, whether they be hardware, OS, or even a new protocol (Infiniband, iSCSI, etc.) more complexity is added to the compatibility matrix and customers often do not realize this," he continued.

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