5 Data Storage Questions to Determine Your Needs
Storage is an important part of your IT infrastructure and, without proper planning, can lead to major headaches for your business. Maybe you’re running out of storage space or are a new company needing direction?
Businesses require more and more data storage for everything from email and spreadsheets, to order forms and invoices, to video and audio. As technology options continue to evolve, how do you decide what is best for your organization?
The traditional model for storage has been three-tiered: separate storage, servers and networking. One major problem with traditional storage is you must estimate how much storage you will need in the next three to five years, which leaves room for error for both "over-purchasing" or, worse, "under-purchasing," which can lead to difficult budgeting discussions.
Hyperconverged and Cloud storage are newer, simplified solutions in which your server, storage and networking come together in one box, providing a "pay-for-what-you-need" option. Some technologies even allow for "hyperconverged clouds" which provide simple administration, governance and cost control for multi-cloud environments. Storage technology is evolving so rapidly that today's technology can seem antiquated as soon as it hits the market.
The storage conversation can be complicated and the hardest part may be knowing where to begin. Staying educated and working with professionals that understand how to align available technologies with business issues is key. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re in the market for more storage:
1. What Are Your Capacity Needs?
You need to understand the amount of storage you are using currently and estimate how much you will need going forward, so you don’t hit a space threshold soon after your purchase. You’ll also need to consider data efficiency needs to determine if faster flash-based storage makes more sense than traditional spinning disk drives. Compression and dedupe (deduplication) can offer a lot of savings if your data set supports it. Make sure to evaluate what kind of data you have and if compression and/or dedupe will offer significant storage savings.
2. What Are Your Performance Requirements?
You must consider how fast you need to perform for your end users to be efficient in performing their job tasks.
Does your business use and rely on a large database? How many and which applications do you use? Using software that contains a database component or other storage-dependent applications can be optimized if you purchase the correct type of disk technology.
Loffler can assess capacity needs and performance requirements for you. Schedule a network assessment today.
3. How Will You Handle Backups?
Storing all your data on a single external hard drive under your desk is not smart. A storm, fire or robbery could devastate your business. The standard recommendation is to have multiple copies of your data. For example, a typical backup strategy would have:
- Snapshots running on your storage
- A local backup of both file level and image level on a separate storage device
- An offsite backup of both files and image. To support offsite backups, you need to have an Internet or WAN connection that will support your backup traffic. Typically you want to have enough bandwidth to complete a full backup of your data in 24 hours.
- Also, having multiple copies of your data is essential if or when you need to recover your data to a specific point in time.
You will also want to name ideal recovery points and recovery times for your business:
RPO (Recovery Point Objective) – Do you need data restored from a week ago, or do you need data restored from an hour ago?
RTO (Recovery Time Objective) – You may be able to restore data from an hour ago, but if it takes two weeks to get it, is that acceptable? Probably not.
You can determine ideal RPO and RTO for your company, but this requires knowing what your business owner or stakeholders are willing tolerate. Lack of ownership/stakeholder input and documentation is the most overlooked portion of a sufficient Business Recovery Plan. If you get a ransomware attack and have the right tools in place, you can discard an infected server and recover data from a backup within minutes. Then again, the tighter the time frame, the more expensive backup solutions become.
4. What Does Your Current IT Infrastructure Look Like?
How old are your current servers? If they’re new, maybe you just need to upgrade storage on your current hosts. Alternatively, if your servers are five years old, you might want to look at a simplified environment, like hyperconverged, to refresh your entire infrastructure.
How many IT professionals does your company employ? Larger companies often have teams of IT specialists with deep knowledge of areas such as networking, storage, application development, servers, etc. But in a small or mid-sized company, IT resources can wear many hats with broad, but more shallow knowledge. That's where a cloud or hyperconverged solution that combines server, storage and networking all in one footprint may be a good option. However, if your team already knows how to administer traditional three-tier solutions, simplification may not be as important.
5. How Will You Sell a Storage Upgrade Internally?
Hyperconverged and/or cloud data storage solutions may seem expensive at first glance, but they offer pay-as-you-go options that can save you money in the long run.
These simplified storage options also allow more systems to be monitored by fewer people. If you take an IT team from eight to four members, it’s not as expensive anymore. This concept makes many IT managers fear simplification, but the potential resource savings can justify hyperconverged or cloud solutions to a business owner in simple cost savings terms. It can also alleviate the constant "churn" of hiring qualified (and highly compensated) systems administration expertise.
Technology is always changing, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every company.
The premier storage brands that were in place three years ago have changed dramatically. And in three more years, today’s hot logos may be absorbed by traditional logos, or disappear altogether.
How do you get on a path to develop the proper storage solution for your organization’s needs? Loffler recommends the following:
- Assess your capacity, performance and backup needs
- Review the size and makeup of your current IT infrastructure
- Plan and communicate the results with business management
Stay current with changes in the industry. Consulting with professionals who make it their business to know today’s trends may be beneficial in the long run.
Keith has more than 30 years of experience in IT infrastructure consulting. He started his career about the same time the PC was invented and has worked with clients of all sizes -- from three-employee offices to Fortune 500. Keith is an avid fan of baseball and golf, and he is a passionate outdoorsman.