Disaster fears drive storage choice

Although IT hardware is becoming more resilient, companies are still losing crucial data through storage failures. James Rogers...

Although IT hardware is becoming more resilient, companies are still losing crucial data through storage failures. James Rogers looks at the most effective methods of protecting company data.

Sixty-nine per cent of companies have experienced a failure in their storage system and, in 29% of these cases, critical business data was lost. These are the findings from a survey of 126 IT professionals responsible for storage conducted by Computer Weekly and storage supplier EMC.

But experts say the findings are not altogether unexpected. Claus Egge, programme director at analyst firm IDC, says, "I am not surprised by that number - everybody has lost data here and there." Anders Lofgren, senior industry analyst at Forrester Research, is also unmoved. He says, "Disc drive failures are not uncommon - in fact, they are to be expected. That is why you use Redundant Array of Independent Disc technology to avoid downtime as a result of disc drive failure."

However, Nigel Ghent, European marketing manager at EMC, says, "That almost three quarters of respondents have experienceda failure is a concern, but it reflects the need for reliability, availability and security in storage."

Business data is effectively the lifeblood of the modern company and any glitches in storage systems could have serious consequences. So it is perhaps not surprising that 21% of the respondents admit to having suffered a financial loss as a result of storage problems.

IT hardware may be becoming increasingly resilient, but the problem of data loss underlines the ongoing need for back-up, according to Egge. "Only a minority of businesses back-up all their laptops and all their desktops, but one of the features of the next wave of back-up technologies will be to embrace these types of workstations," he says.

Lofgren also believes that back-up is key and suggests that the disc-to-disc method could provide the solution. He says, "We are seeing increasing interest in disc-to-disc back-up. With cheaper disc products available, such as ATA, it is a much more viable option."

Building sufficient redundancy into storage systems is all-important if companies want to avoid storage failures, says Lofgren. "Firms have to have some measure of protection in their storage systems. Traditionally, they have done that through redundancy, so you would have dual controllers, power and cooling controls."

The survey shows that the need for back-up and disaster recovery capabilities has overtaken the explosion in e-mail data as the biggest driver behind storage demand. Other factors driving investment in storage products are the growth in databases and new applications. These priorities could reflect concerns over recent events, Ghent says. "There are a lot of worms and viruses about, power cuts on both sides of the Atlantic and persistent terrorist threats, making protecting data uppermost in the minds of IT directors."

Although e-mail is no longer the major factor compelling companies to buy storage, firms still have to handle masses of e-mails and increasingly, a massive volume of spam. The scale of this problem is particularly significant, according to the research. Of the 126 respondents, nearly 20% say that spam accounts for as much as half of the e-mails hitting their corporate networks. Despite the challenge posed by spammers and e-mails in general, only 42% publish a formal policy on storing e-mails and 12% of respondents do not even know whether they have such a policy.

From storage failures to the stress of handling e-mail and the spam deluge, it is obvious IT departments have got quite a job on their hands when it comes to running a storage infrastructure. But it is not all doom and gloom. The data created through the production of new applications is third on the list of key storage drivers and this could be a sign that the eagerly anticipated recovery in the IT market is under way.

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