IT Channel Explained

Remote office/branch office (ROBO) storage services

By Yuval Shavit, Features Writer

Remote office and branch office (ROBO) storage is the storage system at an individual branch office of a company. Because such offices often have relatively limited on-site resources but may be able to draw on the larger organization's financial resources, ROBO storage combines elements of storage technologies used by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and larger enterprises. Remote office/branch office storage may need to integrate the on-site solutions with those of the organization as a whole, which adds another layer of complexity. ROBO storage may also require you to handle regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) that may not otherwise apply to an SMB with a similarly sized office.

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Like SMBs, remote and branch offices don't usually have enough people to warrant a full IT department with specialized staff, so they may rely on you to provide technical services. If ROBO storage management isn't automated, you can provide work like capacity planning and backup as managed services. If the storage system is automated, you may be hired for on-site work, such as the initial deployment and ongoing maintenance.

As with any business, backup and disaster recovery is an important aspect of ROBO storage. If the remote office is backing up to tapes, the responsibility of changing those tapes and moving them to the company's central repository often falls to staff with other primary responsibilities, who may not have much technical training. If this is the case, you can handle the backup tapes for that office, freeing the office staff of that responsibility.

Although tape backup is a tried-and-true technology, maintaining tapes can be cumbersome, and recovering data after a disaster is time-consuming and will likely result in significant downtime. If the company would like to back up the remote office or branch office's data over the network, you have several options. The ROBO site can use a standard online backup vendor, or they can replicate to the company's main office.

If the ROBO storage is being backed up to the company's site, latency and bandwidth are a major hurdle. Within a LAN, a company can control the network environment, making synchronous data replication relatively easy. If packets are moving through the cloud, latency and dropped packets can quickly slow down a system if your client is replicating synchronously. You can consult on several technologies that address these problems, such as data deduplication or a wide-area file services (WAFS) system.


This was first published in March 2008

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