What SMBs should look for in a data storage solution

With the spiralling amount of business data being created, and that big data increasingly being used to manage and grow the business, there is a need for SMBs to fully embrace efficient data storage and management systems to cope.

This HP Simply StoreIT whitepaper will explain what SMBs should look for when choosing and deploying a storage system to aid and grow their business.

Choosing the right storage system to match the business is not an easy decision, as the market is becoming increasingly crowded with the advent of virtualisation and cloud-based storage systems.

SMBs must make sure they make the right investment for the long term, by looking at ways to accommodate growing storage needs as well as addressing data protection requirements to guard business operations and meet compliance requirements.

SMBs may need assistance

Many SMBs may well need assistance in choosing the right solution as a result of not having the same time, resources or budgets that larger organisations do. But whether they go to an outside partner for assistance or have the internal resources to give it a crack themselves, they have to make sure the key tenets are addressed.

SMBs must demand data storage flexibility to adapt to changing business needs, and they require easy to manage and affordable systems that can be modified and which are not locked into the whims of any particular vendor.

As data storage is part of a rapidly changing technology roadmap, SMBs are turning to solution providers that can work with heterogeneous storage, data protection and system recovery technologies, and which can accommodate multiple connectivity protocols.

Data security areas that need to be addressed by SMBs

Data Protection on personal devices and servers

Encryption is the most common technology used to address this area. There are two main forms of encryption - full-disk encryption (FDE) or file/folder encryption.

FDE systems encrypt the entire hard drive so only those with the encryption key can access the data on the drive. Additional data protection technologies include data back-up systems to ensure data is not lost, and firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and other malware protection systems.

Access Control

Making sure that the people accessing data are actually allowed to access it is something that is often overlooked by SMBs. Giving access to information to employees that don't need it to do their job creates security issues.

Systems that deliver improved access control include virtual private networks (VPN) which only allow approved users to specific areas of a data network, or single sign-on or password management systems to restrict access to portions of a website, databases or specific applications.

Authentication

Critical to any data protection is being able to validate who is requesting access to networks, apps or databases, and authentication solutions provide organisations with a way to determine who does what, where and when.

While a simple password is the most common form of authentication, it is also the least secure. Businesses are now looking to more advanced authentication methods, including one-time password tokens, smart cards and biometrics.

With biometrics, there are many forms, including fingerprint biometrics and facial recognition, with fingerprint biometrics now becoming less expensive and even entering the consumer space with the arrival of the latest iPhone.

Doing a business impact analysis

To prepare for a data storage deployment organisations must do an in-depth business impact analysis. This must consider how much storage the business needs, and whether any storage solution under consideration would be flexible enough for business growth?

A gap analysis tool can help organisations compare their actual performance with their potential performance, and by completing one SMBs are able to buy the correct storage for their current needs, and be able to understand what they may have to buy to address storage needs in the future

Storage virtualisation

SMBs must also embrace virtualistion both on the server side and the data storage side. Virtualisation allows servers to run multiple operating systems and many more apps, and can therefore free up existing servers to create and support virtual storage networks for remote data back-up and data archiving.

There are virtual storage appliance (VSA) software offerings out there which allow SMBs to complete data storage and management in a way a few years ago only large enterprises could do.

Virtual storage appliances are another solution to cut storage costs by being an alternative to traditional and more expensive storage disk arrays.

VSA software runs in a virtual machine and creates a shared-storage environment using the space on the physical server it runs on. VSAs include both general-purpose offerings and software designed for specific functions such as back-up and disaster recovery.

Adopting such solutions can reduce the risk of data losses and alleviate the risk of SMBs falling prey to data compliance failures and the risk of fines from governmental data protection bodies.

Storage in the cloud

As previously mentioned the cloud is increasingly playing an important role in data storage decision making. In addition to low capital costs on your part and offering SMBs a flexible and scalable pay-as-you-grow cost structure, the cloud can also help SMBs with low staff levels by automating time-consuming processes like data back-up, data replication and data archiving.

For a cloud-based data back-up service SMBs can pay a monthly fee and see their data backed-up automatically, without having to worry about storage drives being mislaid or permanently being lost.

Having to set up and manage a VPN (virtual private network) to give everyone office and remote access to their email and other applications may also not be necessary if a cloud-based service with a cloud provider is put in place.

SMBs working with cloud providers for their storage solution can be best served using a service that can be integrated with an onsite storage appliance.

The appliance can act as the gateway to the cloud and integration can create an onsite copy of data for fast data recovery and data restore, as well as supporting an offsite cloud tier of data.

The onsite tier can provide the speed for data archiving purposes, while the offsite tier can offer a cheaper solution for data back-up.

Don't forget depude

In addition, any storage appliances chosen should include data de-duplication or "dedupe" technologies to help speed data back-ups and help reduce the amount of data hardware needed.

A dedupe system will make sure that only one copy of multiple batched emails, for instance, are saved on the SMB storage system, freeing up many megabytes or gigabytes of space.

If all these technologies are specified and deployed an SMB will have a comprehensive data storage solution in place.

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