The more information you can get in your holster about storage, the better prepared you will be to handle what is a very challenging and complex technology arena. But don’t cop out and go for the easiest solution or blindly take advice and choose a solution without truly assessing the options. After

all, your company’s data is its lifeblood.

Till now, SMBs have typically used networked storage options such as network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs). While both can be used by enterprises of any size, the small business has up to now favoured NAS. Medium-sized businesses have chosen NAS and entry-level SANs (Fibre Channel and IP-based). But some newer options are trying to shake these traditional configurations, and they range from the straightforward to the complex. Here are five structures you might consider when setting up — or reconfiguring — your storage devices.

  1. Storage centralization. Data stored on disparate servers is tough to protect, back up and manage, but centralizing the storage on a single device can increase data protection by simplifying the storage infrastructure, reducing administrative time, lowering the cost and making the most of application server capacity by offloading storage services. “”The storage arrays that are smart enough to do that these days give you the ability to provision storage dynamically, which means I can add more storage as I need it on the fly without ever taking my application down,”” says Rogers. “”And I only have to do it in one place. I don’t have to go to each of the servers and do it.”” Key benefits: Instead of a direct-attached storage (DAS) scenario where storage in some application servers is under-used and storage in some others servers is over-used, storage is open to the data from all attached servers equally.
  2. Value-based block storage. If you’re an SMB with one or more remote branch offices, an Ethernet-based IP storage area network (SAN) can provide storage consolidation without the expense or complexity of a fibre channel SAN. iSCSI-enabled storage allows both block and file data to be stored cost-effectively on a single device, and allows block-only storage to take advantage of lower-cost IP SAN solutions. Generally, Fibre Channel is better positioned for higher-bandwidth, lower-latency applications, while iSCSI over Gigabit Ethernet works better for tiered access of smaller and distributed servers. Key benefits: Because Ethernet is a corporate network standard there’s no real IT ramp-up time. Also, it integrates easily into existing networks and is cheaper than a traditional SAN.
  3. Consolidated backup. Data backup for systems outside the data centre typically rely on a non-technical user to maintain equipment and remember to change the tape in the backup device daily, resulting in a high failure rate. Consolidated backup can automate the process by consolidating storage from multiple servers onto one central server. A company with 100 point-of-sale outlets may want to receive data from each once a day. But how can it back up all that local data? “”You could back it up to a tape drive that’s on the Fibre Channel network as well, and then you need a common backup application to backup that data to the local tape library,”” Rogers says. “”There’s also this notion of disk-disk-to-tape, which is becoming more important because tape drives are just very slow,”” he adds. “”Disks, located at the central location, can be written to by many different backup streams concurrently and the servers don’t care.”” It’s expensive and tough to recreate the same scenario by adding a library of tape drives. Key benefits: Ethernet-based disk-to-disk-to-tape backup allows SMBs to take advantage of SAN-style storage on a budget, plus provide file sharing and local tape backup.
  4. Remote office backup. In this scenario, while most corporate data resides outside the data centre, it often remains unprotected. Very small companies with a single remote location might be fine with local backup at the remote location. Larger companies might benefit from a full backup strategy designed for protecting distributed data. Key benefits: Set backups to move only the bytes that have changed and you can preserve a non-disruptive — and quick — data movement path.
  5. Data movement and management. For workgroups, small remote offices and small businesses on a budget, server-to-server synchronization software provides a reliable and easy way to keep data available and protected. This is ideal for server data storage, remote office backup and recovery and data movement, plus both data distribution and data centralization between local and remote offices. Key benefits: Synchronization replicates the contents of directories. It also allows sharing and filing between source and destination servers.

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