Data is a valuable asset and deciding how to manage and store it can be challenging. The demand for data and data storage continues to grow and selecting the best method for storing your data will come down to the specific needs of your business.
You need to understand the amount and type of data you have as well as your motivation for storing it. Having this background will determine the route you take and very often, the solution consists of a combination of different storage options.
What enterprise storage systems are available?
Three main categories are Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Storage Area Network (SAN), and Cloud Data Storage. DAS is on-site digital storage directly connected to servers, computers and other devices to form part of a storage network. This could be an external hard drive or a NAS.
A SAN is an on-site centralized data storage solution that pools the resources of many servers to deliver high performance and expandable storage. Cloud data storage is a cluster of servers hosted remotely in a secure server center.
An operational data store (ODS) is a central database containing data from many transactional systems. It offers a snapshot of data for business reporting.
The pros and cons of the different types
DAS is affordable, easy to set up and retain physical access. However, it has limited physical security and it is difficult to expand storage requirements. SAN offers fast file transfers as data is hosted on-site. Adding new resources to the pool increases storage capacity. However, this is the most expensive to set up and maintain.
Cloud storage means you don’t need your own data infrastructure. Data is transmitted and stored on remote third-party storage systems and managed by a cloud vendor. The vendor charges users a monthly fee for the service. There are no upfront hardware costs, it is easy to set up and maintain and service management does not cost that much. As the data is hosted off-network, download and upload speeds are limited to local connection speed.
Ideal candidates for the different types
Direct Attached Storage may be suitable for you if you have modest data storage requirements. You want a simple solution like an external hard drive that you can just plug in.
A Storage Area Network may be suitable for you if you have more complex data storage requirements. You may rather pay a large upfront fee than a monthly fee and you have staff on site to monitor servers and maintain them.
You are an ideal candidate for cloud storage if you have a smaller budget and you need the flexibility to reduce your storage or increase it when you’re growing your business. You may have a need to store important business data in the cloud to protect it from physical threats. Cloud storage is also suitable for those who don’t want to worry about maintenance and those that need collaboration among team members.
Know your data
Understanding the business value of your data is critical when defining your storage strategy. You will need to consider who needs to access your data, where users are connecting from and the response time they expect. Use of the data and end-user expectations are key factors in making your decision. You need to implement data storage solutions that allow you to make the most of your data and drive positive results for your business.
Make sure that the data management platform you choose allows you to combine structured data from transactional systems with unstructured data from email servers etc.
Understand your compliance needs
Highly regulated industries such as healthcare or financial services have a high bar when it comes to security and compliance. If you choose to outsource your data storage and management, you must ensure that your service provider can provide a highly secure, compliant environment. The penalties for non-compliance can be harsh.
To protect cloud data, it is important to choose reputable cloud data storage providers. The open nature of the cloud makes it hard to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access. Private cloud deployments are more secure, especially when encryption protocols are used. Hybrid environments can store sensitive data in a private cloud service and still take advantage of the computing power of public cloud services.
Look at upfront and running costs
Users may buy storage systems due to large initial discounts and not take into account the costs that come from operating a solution over the years. You need to make sure you understand the total cost of ownership including monitoring, personnel, third-party support, and a chance that you may lose data.
These costs can all add up and make upfront costs to purchase and deploy insignificant in comparison. Purchasing storage that offers the best total cost of ownership over time reduces the chance that your long-term running costs will far exceed any short-term discounts.
Look for a solution that fits your data
The solution you choose should offer the flexibility to decide where data is stored: on-premise or in the cloud. For many small and medium-sized businesses, it does not make sense to invest in expensive hardware for storing data.
Migrating all your data operations to a public cloud provider has several advantages, such as allowing employees to use data from almost anywhere, which is a huge benefit if you have a remote workforce. Other benefits include disaster recovery, increased collaboration and affordable pricing structures.
It can be difficult to navigate all the off-line and cloud storage options available. You need to go for a storage solution that best fits your business needs in terms of your budget, your data needs as well as compliance and security needs.
The best solution often consists of a combination of solutions. For example, you may spend more on a platform for storing data you actively use and a less expensive platform, like the cloud, for storing your backup data.