A customer's first SAN/NAS is a dangerous install

Find out the three key steps to prepping customers for their first SAN or NAS to ensure a successful install and position yourself for their future business.

In a recent article, Marc Staimer did an excellent job of describing for end users the five signs that they should

consider shared storage in the form of a storage area network (SAN) or network-attached storage (NAS) system. The first experience with networked storage can be fun for a customer, but it's a dangerous install for storage solution providers. While it's exciting to see someone "get it" when it comes to shared storage, if something goes wrong, the customer may never want another SAN or NAS and certainly not from you. Implementing shared storage requires a specific strategy to ensure success and capture future business.

In this Channel Spin tip, we'll explore some of the nuances of implementing a first SAN or NAS system. What often dooms these projects to failure is that they are not taken seriously. People think, "It's a first SAN, it's small, it's no big deal." In actuality, a first SAN or NAS is one of the most challenging installations to perform.

Your implementation of the storage system doesn't have to just get the system up and running; it has to do so in an uneventful way, giving the customer greater confidence in using the new system. If the customer sees you struggling to get it installed and working, that will rattle them and delay their acceptance and trust in you and the new system. As a result, they'll be slower to load applications and data on to the SAN, and the potential for you to capture add-on storage revenue will be diminished.

Channel Spin analysis
Advice for end users and solution providers

So, to avoid these problems, Priority 1 is to spend extra time in the planning stage. Make sure that the customer has the correct network connectivity and add VLANs for the new SAN or NAS. This is critical when implementing an iSCSI SAN or a NAS system, since you're likely to try to leverage the existing network. Ironically, while Fibre Channel is generally considered more complex than iSCSI, one of its advantages in a first SAN is that it brings all the storage infrastructure with it and in doing so eliminates a variable.

Priority 2 is to get the customer comfortable with what they are going to be using well before implementation. Ideally, you should do a pre-installation training session with them. If you generally don't do training, at a minimum, you should do an "extended demo" prior to implementation. I like to see these done a week or so before the install so the customer has time to think about how the SAN is going to play out. And prior to implementation but after this familiarization stage, you should review the install plan one more time with the customer.

Finally, with these two preinstall steps out of the way, the final step is to set expectations for the install; I like to keep them pretty low. Tell the customer that sometimes surprises happens during an install and that you always work through them. That way, when the surprise does occur, you can point to that conversation and reassure the customer that everything will be OK.

Here's what Mark Staimer had to say about the topic:

Networked data storage for SMBs: Five signs you need to ditch direct-attached storage

Many SMBs are unsure if or when they should move to networked storage from direct-attached storage (DAS). This is often because typical SMBs rarely have a dedicated storage organization or even a dedicated storage individual.
Let's take a look at some guidelines for moving from direct-attached storage embedded within physical servers, to network-attached storage (NAS) or a storage area network (SAN).

A network data storage primer: NAS and SAN

Network-attached storage is optimized for file sharing, is logically similar to a server's internal storage and does not require an additional server computer. NAS is really a purpose-built server specifically tuned and optimized for file sharing. Network-attached storage is connected to the client application servers or desktops over the TCP/IP Ethernet networks and is mounted as if it were an internal drive.

Read the rest of the five signs that your customer should move to SAN or NAS install, by Mark Staimer.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.


This was first published in June 2009

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