Data storage cost savings: One size doesn't fit all

Your customers want data storage cost savings, and there are a number of ways to make this happen – such as deduplication, compression and archiving -- but don't assume that they'll be cost-effective for SMBs. Sometimes, smaller companies just need a cheaper primary storage platform.

In a recent article on SearchSMBStorage.com, Brian Peterson provides five tips on how SMBs can achieve data storage cost savings. His first piece of advice -- partner with a VAR -- is brilliant advice from where we're sitting. Brian also suggested evaluating the tiering strategy to make sure it's not over-delivering on what's needed, assessing what hardware is so old that it makes sense to replace it, getting good at capacity planning...

and considering whether data protection policies can be relaxed. Those are five good ways SMBs can save money. I have one more to add to the list: make sure you're not trying to shoehorn SMB customers into a solution that makes sense for big companies but not for them.

For instance, in this economy, it's not just SMBs that need to save money; companies large and small need to cut costs. But SMBs present a unique challenge in that typical data storage cost saving strategies in use at big companies may not work for them. In many cases, popular capacity management products that perform deduplication, compression or archiving may not be a good fit here. The SMB's capacity may be too small to offset the optimization investment. In other words, the math just won't work.

Let's assume that your potential customer is like every other business: 80% of their data is old and should not be on primary storage. Let's also assume they have 5 TB of total data, meaning that 4 TB or so could be archived. The problem is that many disk archive devices hold 25 TB to 50 TB at the low end. Providing a solution that will take the customer years to fill up doesn't make sense, especially since the mechanics (hard drives) will continue to go down in price.

Data archiving is a critical cost saving technique for many larger businesses. But for SMBs, the most effective way to deliver data storage cost savings may be to provide a less expensive primary storage platform instead.

Many small businesses can replace all their servers with two clustered virtualization hosts and internal storage using FalconStor's or DataCore's virtual appliance technologies with internal disk.

For midsized companies, shared storage will be required with server virtualization. If your customer is big enough to need shared storage, consider NAS solutions from OnStor or Isilon; they can greatly contain costs while maintaining simplicity (via NFS). As discussed in a previous tip, NFS-based server virtualization is one of the easiest -- and increasingly popular -- deployment strategies out there.

I am not one to throw out good data management techniques, especially archive and networked storage, but the lower the primary storage capacity the less practical those techniques become. Storage VARs would be well advised to start looking at turnkey solutions for SMBs that include virtualized servers and virtualized storage software in a single set of clustered chassis. With today's technology it is very possible to deliver enough processing power and disk capacity to fulfill the entire IT needs of the SMB on two pieces of hardware.

Here's what Brian Peterson had to say about the topic:

Five tips to save data storage costs for SMBs

While the current economy is weighing heavily on all businesses, it has no effect on the increasing amount of information that SMBs must store. SMBs are creating and storing new data at alarming rates. Most IT organizations have mandatory budget reduction initiatives, but have little control over the amount of data produced. IDC's quarterly data storage sales report said that while overall revenues are slightly down, storage manufacturers still shipped 27.3% more capacity in Q4 2008 as compared to the same period in 2007. In this tip, we'll review five opportunity areas for SMBs to achieve data storage cost savings.

  • Partner with a VAR

While there may be no way to avoid spending more money on storage hardware, SMBs may be able to offload some of the high-end architectural and sizing tasks to a trusted partner or VAR. It may also be possible to make the VAR earn your business by augmenting your architectural or administration staff. If you partner with the right trusted VAR, they'll gladly trade the time of storage experts for the opportunity to fulfill any storage product requirements you may have.

Read the rest of the story on saving money on data storage costs by Brian Peterson.

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 April 2009

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