Two strategies for small business storage

By Andrew Collins
Tuesday, 18 March, 2014

Two strategies for small business storage

Small businesses typically lack the resources to manage complicated on-premises storage environments, but there are several options that can help ease the burden.

The idea that small businesses don’t have a lot of data is a myth, according to analyst firm Gartner. A recent Gartner survey, which covered 206 businesses, found that 18% of organises with 1-99 employees have 50 TB or more of data.

But small businesses lack the infrastructure and IT staff required to effectively manage complex on-premises storage environments, the firm said in a recent report titled 'Consider These Two Antidotes for Your Small-Business Storage Needs'.

"Small businesses, therefore, need to invest in IT solutions that nullify organizational size advantage and reduce IT labor intensity," wrote the report's authors, analysts Valdis Filks, Dave Russell and Mike Cisek.

Solution 1: The cloud

If, as a small business, your IT needs are relatively modest and standardised, the authors suggest the simplest solution is the cloud.

"A small business can reliably and cost-effectively move some business applications (such as email and CRM) and generate, consume and share the associated data in the cloud. Also, a number of IT operational services, such as backup/restore and various security controls, are effectively being delivered via cloud services," they wrote.

If an application is in-house, you can make use of a hybrid model.

"In-house servers and applications can result in storage requirements becoming too costly from both a capital and operational cost perspective. When this is the case, it is advisable that any seldom-used data (for example, archive data) be moved into the cloud. The data can still be accessed, but there will be a slight delay, due to latency, compared with on-premises storage and data. Since that data is inactive or seldom used, the delay is not typically an issue, and the economic trade-off is very positive," the analysts said.

There are some risks attached to moving to the cloud. For one, the analysts warn about losing track of your costs.

"Contracts, bills and assets must still be tracked, and any cloud gateway will need to be monitored and updated as required by the cloud vendor," the authors said.

"System outages will still have to be managed and scheduled if and when any cloud services require updates that result in a system outage.

"Businesses should also consider the time that it may take to migrate data between an existing cloud vendor and a new cloud storage provider. The requirement to migrate cloud data can occur if an existing cloud vendor exits the business or fails to deliver on requirements," the authors said.

Solution 2: Preintegrated storage solutions and appliances

There are some systems or workloads that require on-premises infrastructure. This can be problematic for small businesses if they lack the staff and skills to select the components, and integrate and maintain the solution.

In that case, "preintegrated storage solutions and appliances provide the most optimal and cost-effective solution", the analysts said.

"Preintegrated storage solutions and appliances are easy to configure, require a minimal amount of administration and management, and offer vendor support in line with the expectations and capabilities of most small-business storage requirements.

"Furthermore, there is reduced risk and time involved with preintegrated approaches, as there is no need to research and select all of the
individual components needed to create a solution."

This approach allows a small business to retain control of its storage and means the business is responsible for storage availability, security and costs.

If you go down this path, Gartner has several recommendations:

  • Make sure that service and support expectations and commitments are explicitly spelled out during the purchase process.
  • Before purchasing such a device, check how easy it is to use. Verify that your internal IT staff has the capacity to operate, administer and manage the device.
  • When sizing the system, factor in expected storage growth over the system's life span or ownership period. In other words, make sure the system can grow with your business requirements.
  • Be aware that any storage and application migrations down the road may be beyond the capabilities of your IT department. You may need to get your supplier to perform this process - and this will typically come at an extra cost.
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