Finding a place for your stuff: 5 top storage solution questions to ask yourself

Storage always makes me think of the late, great George Carlin’s classic comedy routine about stuff.

“Sometimes you’ve got to move, you’ve got to get a bigger house. Why? Too much stuff! You’ve got to move all your stuff. And maybe put some of your stuff in storage. Imagine that – there’s a whole industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff!”

Carlin had no idea. That’s because data – the kind of stuff IT decision makers lose sleep over – is growing at an mind-boggling rate and has made finding smart, cost-effective ways to expand hardware and virtualize storage one of their top priorities.

So how should you decide on the mid-range storage solution that’s right for your organization? Here are five questions to ask that can help you figure it out:

1. What’s the management interface? One claim virtually all storage vendors make is that their solution is easy to use, a benefit that’s usually centered around the graphical user interface (GUI). But don’t be fooled, it’s not simply about easy on-screen navigation – though that’s important. True ease of use depends on the functionality available in the GUI, elements like a visualized task flow, an integrated video instruction set and browser-based capabilities that allow for access from any platform. Remember, the degree of navigational difficulty that takes advantage of this sort of functionality varies widely between vendors.

2. Does it include storage tiering software? Ensure your solution can dynamically move data to the optimal tier when needed so network storage complements your application needs. Robust tiering software takes care of this, enabling the use of solid state drives to cost-effectively improve the performance of data-intensive tasks and applications.

3. How easily and efficiently can you add more storage? Scalability is a key hardware attribute – maybe the key one. Most midrange systems are modular, offering the ability to start small and add capacity by adding expansion enclosures. You want to be able to mix enclosures with 2.5” and 3.5” HDD and SSD drives of various capacities to provide maximum flexibility. Also look for independent scaling of performance, capacity and software, which will allow you to protect your investment without having to change the base platform.

4. Can you migrate data between systems while keeping applications running? Being able to do so can help reduce your overall total cost of ownership and the complexity of your IT infrastructure at the same time. And you’ll be able to perform migrations during business hours instead of in the dead of night. Look for a provider that can deliver intelligent storage migration services that ease the process of migration by insulating applications and data from the underlying physical infrastructure.

5. Is the functionality you need already built in? Just because you’re in the market for a midsize solution shouldn’t mean you have to compromise on features usually only offered to the big boys. You’ll want a solution that provides a host of vital functionalities built in, not as add-ons – like virtualization, thin provisioning and storage performance monitoring. It’ll make administration easier and disk storage utilization more efficient. And to be safe, make sure you’re covered with pre-installed advanced software including asynchronous remote block mirroring and snapshot capabilities for high availability and disaster recover protection.

That’s a lot of stuff to consider, to be sure. I think George Carlin would be proud.

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About Andy Thomas

With over 16 years of experience as an IBM Business Partner, Andy has worked in the open systems, server virtualization, and storage consolidation areas.