The four-step storage strategy

Until recently, the acquisition of storage and its associated management tools was usually a by-product of a server based project.

Such projects were often set up to support a specific application or business requirement.

The relatively low profile that storage holds has resulted in many organisations running a wide range of disparate platforms, often using an equally diverse portfolio of management tools to administer them individually.

Frequently storage platforms are poorly utilised whilst its management is labour-intensive and time consuming.

But most importantly of all, the cost of running storage is high and the data it holds for the organisation to exploit may not always be held on the most suitable platform to meet the rapidly expanding demands of the business.

It thus makes sense for CIOs to ensure they have a good handle on both what storage solutions they currently employ to support business systems as well as whether investment in new solutions could provide significant benefits.

This requirement is not going to change in the near future as the volume of data being generated continues to grow rapidly, especially given that a sizeable number of organisations now report storage costs as one of the largest in their IT budgets.

Storage and its management is becoming visible in its own right and the recognition of its business importance is growing, especially as regulatory requirements surrounding data protection expand.

So what can CIOs do about improving the storage services they deliver to their organisations?

Do a data audit
The starting point in many cases is simply to do an audit of what platforms are being used, how much capacity is unutilised and identify just what data is being held.

Related:

Following this, resources, probably people, must be allocated to classify and categorise what is being held to allow decisions to be made.

Many organisations have anything but a good idea of what storage platforms they have operational or how effectively they are being utilised.

Few are confident they have accurate, and up to date, knowledge of:

 - What data they hold on each system
 - Its value to the business
 - How it should be protected
 - How long it should be retained

Even fewer report they have a good handle on what service quality performance is required of individual data sets and whether those service quality metrics are being delivered.

So getting hold of this core inventory and asset data is an important first step.

Research storage products
After gathering this basic information, the CIO can explore the ever-diversifying portfolio of sophisticated storage solutions being brought to market.

But this task is not as easy as it sounds, even to storage specialists, of whom there are few.

Even IT staff involved in the daily operation of systems often have only a limited grasp of what new storage solutions are available and what business advantages they could deliver.

Last year Freeform Dynamics carried out a survey of small businesses in the UK looking at disaster recovery.

One of the most interesting discoveries was that only a small percentage of IT professionals interviewed were comfortable in their knowledge of new storage solutions (See graph).