Storage Presents Tough Choices

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Selecting a storage solution is not as simple a decision as opting for network-attached storage (NAS) or a storage area network (SAN), particularly for smaller enterprises. Take, for example, an interesting decision process undertaken by a small enterprise to address its burgeoning storage needs.

The company, with about 100 employees, uses a single server for network operations, applications, and storage. The company was adding up to 10 gigabytes of data a week to its existing one-year old Micron server, which has 120 gigabyte capacity. Through tape backup, it was able to keep the server’s load level at about 75 percent to 80 percent capacity, which was still causing some strain on its network function. The original server had cost about $12,000, and tapes were adding $6,000 a year to the total cost.

The company’s IT manager says he originally explored three solutions; NAS, which would have been the quickest fix for storage; a full-fledged domain controller, more difficult to set up but more versatile; or continuing to use the existing server and backup files manually on CDs or DVDs, or with an automatic jukebox setup. Plenty of variables went into the final solution, the IT manager says, not the least of which is that small companies have far fewer low-cost options than do larger enterprises.

In addition, management recognized that network storage had become a long-term strategy issue, requiring a flexible and growing approach, and its own budget considerations. The IT manager recommended budgeting for 300 gigabytes of additional storage per year for the next two years, anticipating that amount may double after that period.

The recommended solution is still a three-pronged approach, incorporating all three of the options originally evaluated. For the near term, he suggested a domain controller (at a cost of about $10,000), which would more than double network capacity, while providing critical redundancy to the network.

In year two, under his plan, the company would add a NAS, providing another 130 gigabytes of capacity for about $14,000. This file server solution would still require take backup, as would the domain controller.

In the final year of the proposal, the company would install an automated, online CD backup jukebox appliance, currently priced between $10,000 and $15,000. This addition would essentially eliminate the need for tape and manual CD backups, and would provide online access and cataloging of files from CD backups, as well as off-line cataloging.

Enterprises all across the country are grapping with these solution options, as they cope with networks stretched too thin by today’s increasing storage needs. Storage is an issue that must be addressed from a practical and strategic viewpoint, with a view of both immediate needs and long-term needs. The scope may be different, based on the size of the organization, but the need is pervasive and the systems are being implemented regardless of current economic conditions.

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