Five Step Storage Strategy

By | September 11, 2006

Storage is a complex business these days. Businesses face an almost overwhelming choice of differing technologies and vendors, and it can be very difficult to separate marketing hype from fact and decide which systems are the best fit for your organisation’s requirements. The situation is exacerbated by the increasingly complex raft of corporate governance legislation and industry regulation that businesses must comply with, since much of this involves a large degree of data retention which requires a robust long term storage solution.

Before rushing into a decision about which solution to invest in, and potentially making a costly mistake, it’s wise to assess the company’s specific requirements, in a step-by-step process taking into account: business needs, the regulatory environment and the budget available. Here are some points to consider:

1. Can you afford to be locked into a proprietary system or a specific supplier?

Not all storage devices make it easy to transfer their media to an alternative device. If the hardware you are considering fails, how easy will it be to remove the physical media, or data, and load it onto a replacement device? Worse still, if the hardware supplier should ever go out of business, will it be possible to transfer your backup media to third party hardware?

2. How long do industrial or company regulations require data to be held?

Longevity is a serious issue. Systems which rely on magnetic media such as tape or hard disks are prone to corruption caused by electromagnetic interference, and occasional mechanical failure. This means that the data they store will have to be migrated to new systems at regular intervals, two or three times per decade in order to maintain data integrity; this can add significantly to the total cost of ownership. DVD storage systems offer a far greater lifespan, once data is committed a disc there is practically zero chance of corruption and the media can last 50 to 100 years.

3. Where will the hardware reside?

Server rooms are often in basements that may be vulnerable to flooding, or physical storage areas where they are susceptible to being knocked around. What would happen if the data storage unit was physically damaged – would the data survive? Server rooms can also generate a lot of heat and if they are inadequately cooled, the risk of a system failure is significantly increased, so they require air conditioning systems which can be expensive to install and run.

4. How quick and easy does the retrieval process need to be?

This can be influenced by a number of drivers, from compliance requirements to simple business logistics. How often is it likely that stored data will need to be retrieved, and how quickly does the retrieval request need to be fulfilled? Tape backup systems can be slow at the best of times, and a high volume of retrieval requests can really grind things to a halt. Hard disks and DVD libraries on the other hand offer much faster data retrieval and are better at handling higher volumes.

5. What is the budget available?

Will the budget for the project be enough to buy the right kind and the necessary volume of storage? While tape and hard disk based systems can become very costly when you need higher data volumes, but DVD storage libraries, for example, are comparatively inexpensive. A single DVD device offering almost two terabytes of storage can cost less than Ј7k.

While the various storage formats each have their own advantages, DVD libraries can provide a cost effective solution that offers a good compromise of cost and performance. While RAID systems undeniably offer faster retrieval speeds, they are not ideal long term solutions and have higher total cost of ownership, as do tape based systems. DVD libraries on the other hand offer solid, reliable long term storage, faster retrieval times than tape based systems, and because they’re based on such a ubiquitous media format, there are no worries about future compatibility problems.

Microboards is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2006

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