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Tiered Storage: It’s for SMBs Too.

Does this sound familiar? - The business is producing ever-increasing amounts of data, and budget constraints require you to manage and protect the growing amounts of data with fewer resources, while (of course) ensuring that service levels and application performance are maintained. 

This sort of problem is not found just in “big” IT shops. In this “digital age” the business models of a growing number of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) depend on their ability to create and manage large amounts of data.  This data is the lifeblood of the business and must be well protected and maintained.  To cope with the steady growth of data, SMBs must consider various digital storage technologies that enable them to hold down CapEx and OpEx while still ensuring competitive service levels.  In addition, many SMBs also have to manage the use of the web to communicate and deliver services to their customers and need to maintain service responsiveness well beyond the traditional 9-to-5 business day. 

In most instances, business data generally falls into three categories:  1) currently active structured digital records that are accessed in real-time / at any time; 2) recently active structured digital records that are frequently but not continually accessed; and 3) aged structured and unstructured data (documents, database records) that are not accessed often but that must be securely archived (e.g. document and historical transaction data that need to be kept for 7 years for tax reporting).

Managing these different types of digital records cost-effectively requires the ability to migrate the data between different “tiers” of storage that deliver a different mix of capacity, performance and cost characteristics that optimize the entire business data storage system to deliver appropriate service levels for each type of data.  In other words, the right kind of storage optimized for each data category.

For a smaller business that generates large amounts of data, the IT environment may consist of one or more application servers with dedicated storage that includes a real-time fail-over capability (mirror) of the active business data.  In this instance, the business-critical “tier 1” server storage may need to provide both enough performance and capacity to support the business’ active structured database files and associated applications.  In addition, a separate or shared network-attached storage (NAS) appliance may be deployed to archive older records data and store additional “mirror” copies of the server data and applications to support server platform fail-over capability.  To fully protect the businesses digital assets, the data on shared storage or NAS appliance is replicated to a remote site as part of a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery plan. 

Achieving all of the above securely and cost-effectively can be approached with a spectrum of design solutions that range from in-house data storage to remote, vendor managed data center.  Regardless of the approach, implementing tiered storage on servers is critical to business operations and to protecting critical business data.  "For tiered storage, hard disk drives (HDDs), as a mainstay in storage systems, provide the lowest cost per unit of capacity and excellent data endurance."

If extreme performance is required, solid state drives (SSDs) offer value as part of a carefully designed solution that tiers both performance and storage capacity.  However, SSDs may be hard for some SMBs to justify the additional cost.  It is recommended that flash media is closely managed due to the limited use-life specifications that require scheduled replacement.

Regardless of the specifics of any SMB tiered storage solution, customers need to look carefully at any vendor solution in terms of flexibility (think in terms of total migration to another vendor...), scalability, reliability, security and business continuity. 

At Toshiba Storage Products, we design a full line of enterprise class HDD and SSD products that deliver a complete range of performance, cost-effectiveness and data endurance to solutions designers and systems integrators who specialize in SMB server and storage solutions. 

The views expressed on this post are our own and do not necessarily reflect the views of TAEC or Toshiba Corporation.

Disclaimer
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc.

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