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Five signs it's time to think about file storage modernization

(Image credit: Image Credit: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock)

If your enterprise is still using a local file storage solution, such as NAS or local file servers, it may be time to consider modernizing your data storage infrastructure to support an increasingly distributed workforce and maximize data security and compliance using edge-to-cloud storage services.

Here are five key signs that you need to start thinking about file storage modernization.

1.            You always seem to be running out of storage. With more unstructured data and larger files being created at the edge than ever before, organizations are frequently reaching their storage capacity limits, and seem to be playing an never-ending game of “catch-up” that requires costly storage array expansion, maintenance efforts, and management overhead. There are only so many disks that can be thrown at the problem before you simply run out of space and money. In the meantime, the business as a whole suffers as users can't do their jobs and productivity slows down. In addition to costs, regularly adding and configuring disks, as well as fielding user complaints, stretching storage capacity creates added strain on IT resources.

2.            Your storage hardware is coming up for renewal. Maintenance costs for traditional NAS vendors are invariably very high. Renewals are a natural and convenient time to take a fresh look at your infrastructure and assess whether there are better or cheaper options available. The Covid-19 pandemic has led IT leaders to re-think their approach to storage and other issues as they look for ways to support higher numbers of remote workers.

3.            Distributed IT management is increasingly time-consuming. As a company grows, its IT infrastructure must expand accordingly. Each time a new NAS is installed at a remote office, it involves significant deployment, data replication, and management efforts. While this is feasible for a few sites, there is a tipping point. The increased pressure and burden on often overstretched IT teams can result in missed renewal dates or locking into existing renewal agreements. Not only is this expensive, it also prevents the IT team from exploring other options or employing their time for other projects to benefit the company.

4.            Shadow IT has become a security issue.  Shadow IT has been growing over the years, and even more so during the pandemic. With IT teams scrambling to support the rapid remote working shift, they have had to move fast and look for shortcuts. This may involve skipping proper security testing and validation. At the same time, users are downloading unsanctioned software from the internet to share files with each other and, in doing so, putting private and sensitive data at risk. These types of shadow IT activities have led to an increase in the number of cybersecurity hacks and information exfiltration incidents reported in recent months.

5.            You are not meeting your RTO/RPO requirements. Inability to meet your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) targets could have a huge impact on the company's business continuity management and compliance of data protection regulations. The recent wave of ransomware attacks has highlighted the importance of minimizing RPO. Common endpoint or server backup solutions have a 4-8 hour interval, which means large enterprises risk losing an enormous amount of work if attacked. In order to ensure business continuity, productivity and compliance, IT teams should aim to reduce backup intervals from hours to minutes.

Where to start?

A good place to start is at the end. Your organization's bespoke requirements should always come first and data storage modernization should be custom fit to those needs. Decide on your priorities for the new solution. Are you looking for more a cost-effective means of storing unused data? Do you have sensitive data that needs bulletproof protection? Are you trying to enhance the productivity of remote workers post-Covid? Make sure to engage with the entire company to understand the business requirements from all angles and adjust your plan accordingly.

Once you have established your aims, the next step is an analysis of your current environment. This should include an inventory of dataset types, total storage capacity and size/file-count, as well as defining your performance parameters. It is then time to identify your functional requirements and start researching the most appropriate storage solution(s).

Storage modernization checklist

Whether you are a small organization looking to move to the cloud to reduce costs or a large global company that needs to create and share files between hundreds of remote offices and endpoints, there are a few essential factors that should be considered. The following elements are vital for any data storage modernization project regardless of your company’s specific challenges and requirements:

  • Data retention and versioning – Keep previous file versions for a specified retention period (30 days minimum) and store them in a read-only repository to prevent deletion by malicious software. Be sure to store the archived copy in a physically separate location from the main copy.
  • Disaster recovery – Determine the minimum RTO and RPO requirements of your organization and implement incremental version backups in order to minimize recovery point exposure.
  • Security – Deliver highest levels of data privacy and access control by employing audit trails, extensive logging, in-transit and at-rest encryption and private cloud deployments.
  • Remote workforce enablement – Ensure all users have low-latency remote access to file storage from any location and any device.
  • Reduced TCO – Storage costs can be reduced by leveraging cost-effective cloud object storage for various use cases, from primary storage to archiving.

Replacing your NAS architecture with a modern edge-to-cloud file services platform can help organizations address file storage, control and governance requirements while never running out of space or having to add more hardware, saving time and expense. At the same time, real-time file access, multi-site collaboration and local performance from any location dramatically boosts user productivity.

As remote work has become the "new norm", more organizations than ever before are seriously considering the replacement of their traditional storage architecture in favor of a cloud-based infrastructure. To support users who work from home or from smaller shared offices, enterprises are looking for scalable, high-performance solutions that can deliver edge-to-cloud functionality. Fast and secure remote file access is critical to ensure an optimal user experience and high business productivity now and post-Covid.

Saimon Michelson, Field CTO, CTERA