Data is the lifeblood of any business, so it’s important to consider how and where you will store it. Your individual business and specific data requirements will drive what choice you make. There are a number of considerations and questions you should ask yourself as a business before making any decisions on storage solutions.
What does your current environment look like?
What are the challenges in managing your environment? How do these challenges affect your business? What applications do you use? What is your software stack? What are your operating systems and software packages?
Do you have specific requirements from a new storage solution?
Do you want to improve performance, resilience, capacity? Have you considered other features like encryption? Is a single or multisite storage solution required? Do you want or intend to manage your own infrastructure, or would you consider a managed service? Have you considered a full or partial cloud-based solution or does your business need to contain full security control through an on-premise infrastructure solution?
Have you fully considered how you will protect your data?
The demands for data storage and its retrieval rise daily as does the ingenuity of cyber-attacks and ransomware. What plans have you in place for your Data Back-up and Disaster Recovery in the event of an attack and ultimately for Business Continuity? Is
How will you migrate to your new system?
How much data needs to be migrated? What type of data is it? What migration tools will you use? What is the timeframe for completion of migration? Who has responsibility for migration? Do you need to migrate all your data?
What is your budget?
Capital expenditure or Operational expenditure through a consumption-based payment structure?
What is your time frame?
Looking ahead, what length of support do you need? Three years, five years, more or less? And critically, how is your new enterprise storage system expected to grow and scale over time? What the objectives might there be over a three to five year period? How might your objectives change over time and how might your data solution need to adapt too?
New technology equals new solutions
As well as multiple things to consider, and an infinite number of individual needs, there are also now an ever increasing number of new technologies changing the way organisations can approach data storage. It’s no surprise that business can get confused and overwhelmed when it comes to planning the best solution for them. Broadly speaking the main options fall into a number of categories.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IT service providers are expanding the number of ‘as a service’ offerings and it’s now commonplace for organisations to spread some IT costs via monthly subscriptions. This enables organisations to scale up and down within a business landscape that is ever-changing. Flexible capacity storage options such as IaaS and SaaS are enabling organisations to move away from capex investment to models whereby they pay for the storage consumed on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Businesses can also adopt pay per use data storage models using hardware located on their own site, with options to buy at the end of the arrangement.
Hybrid solutions are an increasingly popular option which combine the flexibility of private or public cloud storage for less sensitive data with the security of on-site storage for business-critical and/or sensitive data.
Tiered storage solutions
Similarly, organisations are implementing tiered storage – whereby different categories of data are assigned to various types of storage media – as a means of adopting the most appropriate technology to suit the data being stored and to reduce total storage cost. Flash storage technology is evolving and it is likely that Flash memory will be utilised to boost system performance. As costs continue to fall, we expect to see more data transferred to fast reliable Flash storage.
A counter to this is the emergence of in-built storage. Many customers are opting for storage built directly into their hardware infrastructure, thereby removing the need for separate storage devices.
Software Defined Storage (SDS)
In addition to investing in new data storage infrastructure, Software Defined Storage (SDS) allows organisations to become more agile in how they take advantage of virtualisation without requiring the purchase of new hardware. It enables the use of multiple types of storage hardware to provide a simple to use platform which can easily be upgraded. This can be an ideal solution for organisations looking to integrate existing IT equipment with new storage capacity. The advent and maturity of SDS and widespread use of hypervisors means it’s easier to mix storage/ servers and network vendors, giving buyers greater flexibility to suit their individual data storage needs than ever before and the ability to shop around.
Too often, we meet customers who simply haven’t engaged early enough for the plan they have in place. For big organisations, storage projects can take months, even years to complete, so it’s crucial you engage early. We also face issues with limited capacity, where the project hasn’t been planned correctly so halfway through, our IT teams find they are running out of capacity. This can grind projects to a halt. Ensure everything is pre-planned and in place before embarking on a new project.
Another common pitfall for organisations is that they misjudge the amount of data storage they will actually require – it is hard to plan what the business is going to need for the next four to seven years (a typical storage investment cycle).
The data landscape is constantly evolving, creating demand for new better storage solutions that cater for the huge variety of business needs. Businesses must properly consider their needs, plan accordingly and seek expert help and guidance when they need to implement the best system for them, both now, and in the future.
Paul Timms, Managing Director at MCSA
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