Remember Simple?

When you began your business, things were simpler. There were only a handful of computers to maintain, a single pot of coffee lasted most of the morning, and success was being able to keep the lights on for another month. Back then, your idea of data security may have been a combination of personal responsibility and a few portable backup drives. You eventually graduated to a network attached storage device and some software solution that supposedly oversaw the backup process for you, but you never really knew much about it, and thankfully it never got put to the test.

Reading the Tea Leaves of Success

As you look over your business now, you see more faces than names you can recall, and you begin to realize how much responsibility you have. As a middle market firm, you own dozens of computers, all networked into multiple servers that run the shared applications that drive productivity. With everything centralized, you begin to reassess what is really at stake if the network were to go down due to some hardware crash or other catastrophic data loss event. For a while now, you have had a dedicated IT person (or is it two?) that runs around reconnecting clients to their shared drives and putting band-aids on a short-stack of servers that have long outlived their intended purpose. As you start a fresh pot of coffee, something in your gut tells you it’s just not sustainable anymore.

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Catching Up with the Times

This is not a time for half-hearted measures or to buy IT a new box of band-aids. It’s time to make a long-term investment to protect everything you have built and pave the way for the future success of your company. It’s time to implement a professional storage array network, or SAN. Chances are you have some peripheral knowledge about SANs and you think you know the basics and the names of a few big vendors. What you probably don’t know is that in the past few years there has been revolutionary changes in the capabilities of storage systems -- changes that favorably impact everything you would want from a SAN, from performance to security.

In many ways, it’s advantageous to be a new buyer in the SAN market because it means you are not beholden to a single storage provider or locked into any long-term service contracts. Further, you do not have to consider backwards compatibility with an existing storage system. You are free to look forward and take advantage of the latest innovations in the industry. And yes… there have been quite a few!

Not Your Daddy’s Storage Solution

Right off the bat, you will be faced with the question of local storage vs cloud storage. The only clear advantage the cloud offers is “as much storage as you are willing to pay for”. This makes the cloud optimal for archiving data, but not much else. If you suffer a data loss event that requires restoring terabytes of data locally, getting that data off the cloud could mean a lot of down time. If your situation calls for it, the best of both worlds can be had by having a local SAN that connects directly out to the cloud, so make sure that is an option in any local storage solution you consider.

Why Size Really Doesn’t Matter

When you consider a SAN, don’t just think storage capacity and terabytes. Many vendors post big numbers under the capacity column, and only later do you find out that 30% of that capacity is required to maintain routine security backups, drive images, and snapshots. The real question is “free storage” and how well the system optimizes and manages the space it uses. This is one of the primary areas wherein innovation has changed the storage game, much to the demise of snapshots.

Say Sayonara to Snapshots

A well-kept secret in the storage industry is that snapshot technology is on the outs, and if you sold SANs that still relied on snapshots for backup, you’d keep that a secret too! The new kid on the block is called “Point in Time” storage, which uses metadata to continuously monitor and record the state of the storage array… which means you can always restore the storage array to any state. The advantages of Point in Time storage are twofold: First, storing metadata is both fast and cheap, typically requiring just a few percent of the array’s full storage capacity. Second, it allows you to dial back the storage on your network to any second in time within the storage history. That means, “Tell me when the network crashed, and I can dial it back to 1-second beforehand to avert the problem… be it a malware attack or a bad software update.” That is ultimate protection with virtually no data loss, and you should demand nothing less for your business and its employees.

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New CPUs Unlock Performance

Another reason this is a great time to shop storage is due to the latest generation of Intel CPUs to hit the market. These have unlocked new multi-tasking capabilities and introduced unprecedented levels of performance in SAN environments. These modernized SANs can perform deduplication and data compression on-the-fly without taking clock cycles away from the I/O stream. This means that servers can access and deliver data faster than ever because that data has already been optimized. That also means that data can be moved to the cloud or represented on other servers across the globe with remarkable speed and efficiency.

If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right

You have a lot to consider when shopping for a storage solution, and this article only scraped the surface of the newest state-of-the-art features and capabilities that are available to you. Be aware that the storage industry is ruled by giants, but in technology, giants often get caught in their own traps -- like backwards compatibility and catering to major corporate clients.

This is no time to make a quick decision based on name recognition or price tags. Take your time and do your homework, because what you are really shopping for is a major competitive advantage for your business, so you have to get it right. Start your research by downloading the eBook titled "Essentials when upgrading a storage solution."

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