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Storage optimization considerations for SMBs

By Rusty Rosenberger, scalable storage product management director, Imation Corp., special to Network World
October 29, 2012 01:13 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

IT budgets are always tight in small to midsize business, and when it comes to storage, many simply bolt on additional boxes to accommodate growth and data retention regulations without considering the added complexity and long-term costs.

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In fact, most SMBs do not have a comprehensive storage strategy, but there are a few simple ways SMB IT teams can to maximize their investments. To start, companies need to determine the expected size of their data set. To make that assessment, SMBs should determine:

• The size of the company or the number of employees 
• The size of the company's data (gigabytes or terabytes?) 
• Data access frequency 
• Time-to-data requirements 
• Long-term retention requirements 
• And whether or not data needs to be transported from one location to another

Second, companies should determine how the infrastructure will be managed and the comfort level with relying on an external resource as a trusted adviser. SMBs often turn to external consultants and value-added resellers (VARs) as their IT specialists, where bigger businesses can afford dedicated, in-house IT staff. VARs can offer SMBs the latest insight on new technologies, manage vendor relationships and make recommendations on buying decisions. Whereas, in-house specialists know the company's needs and business, are able to make adjustments quickly and maintain control of the infrastructure.

The third consideration is budget. Fortunately, there are a plethora of storage choices that can be effectively and affordably deployed, but SMBs should establish an initial budget range. Using a multi-tiered storage approach allows a business to make cost/availability tradeoff decisions at multiple points during the data lifecycle.

Key features for a flexible, optimized infrastructure

The ideal to shoot for is a flexible, robust storage infrastructure that provides end-to-end management and security of data. In order to build an infrastructure that incorporates the flexibility and management options needed for a growing business, SMB IT teams should consider building in these important features:

* Scalability. As your business continues to grow, so will your data infrastructure needs. Having a storage infrastructure that is as scalable and agile as the amount and type of growing pertinent business data is a must. Look for appliances that support increased capacity media cartridges or the easy addition of new appliances or arrays.

* Active archiving. Data archiving requirements are usually defined by company policy or industry and government regulations. These policies and regulations will dictate retention and retrieval time requirements. Certain industry requirements may demand a business to reproduce data in a very short period of time, along with "chain-of-custody" audit trail data. There are now technologies that increase efficiencies of active and multi-tiered archive you can incorporate into your infrastructures including new storage media formats.

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