Plan for future storage needs

UK businesses are spending huge sums on storage without showing any return on their investment because they are failing to plan...

UK businesses are spending huge sums on storage without showing any return on their investment because they are failing to plan and manage their future storage requirements with care.

Poor storage planning and management is costing UK businesses dear, according to the latest industry research.

For every pound that UK companies spend on data storage, 73p is wasted as a result of poor planning and management, according to research from storage specialist Source Consulting. The volumes of data produced by companies is increasing at a frightening rate - largely as a by-product of e-business applications. Businesses clearly need to do some serious thinking about how they use their storage.

Storage, largely based on tape and discs, requires careful planning if companies are to get value for money. However, most companies are cutting corners on storage, says Source Consulting.

"The vast majority of companies are not undertaking propercapacity planning, project management and storage resource management," said Jason Rabbetts, commercial director at Source Consulting.

The research, whichlookedat some 20 blue-chip companies also suggests that the bulk of UK businesses are making inadequate use of their storage resources.

Sue Clarke, senior research analyst at Butler Group, is not surprised. "It is certainly true that companies are wasting a lot of money in terms of under-utilisation of their storage assets," she said.

So, what is the answer? Clarke suggests that a combination of storage area networks (Sans) and virtualisation technologies could help companies struggling to cope with spiralling volumes of data.

Although it may sound like something from the pages of a science fiction novel virtualisation is one of the major buzzwords in the storage industry at the moment.

Virtualisation is the ability to pool storage resources and share them amongst a number of applications by creating a virtual disc. This lets users pool the spare space on their storage system, removing the need for reconfiguring the system.

This marks a move away from the traditional methods of handling data in which storage applications are just bolted onto the network.

"The problem is that storage requirements are growing at such a rate that traditional storage networks are not coping," said Clark.

Storage giant StorageTek is acknowledged as being one of the pioneers of virtualisation. The company's marketing manager Dave Slater said virtualisation methods of storage are more flexible than traditional systems.

"In traditional storage management if you tell the central processing unit that there is a terabyte in the storage system, there has to be a physical terabyte available, whether there is data on it or not," said Slater.

Similarly, if you ever reach a stage where your disc is 100% full and you try to write data to it your application will grind to a halt. Thus, users need to leave spare space for data to grow into.

For users building a San, companies are now using storage products that can allow tape drives in different formats to talk to each other. This could help cut costs for users and streamline business processes.

Of course, cutting edge technologies such as Sans will be more relevant to some companies than others. Yet, all businesses need to think seriously about their storage management, as highlighted by Source Consulting's findings.

For every pound spent on a unit of storage, or gigabyte, the average blue-chip company is spending 22 times this amount on management overheads, back-up and training, said Source Consulting.

There are even some companies which seem to have little or no idea about the resources at their disposal. "We went to one site where an additional terabyte subsystem was sitting unused in a room," said Rabbetts.

Companies also need to take a realistic view of both their data and their systems right at the outset of any new IT projects. "When companies start planning to implement any new system one important factor should be the return on investment," explained Clarke. You have to take a longer term view than just the cost of hardware and software, she added.

So far, however, few companies have been able to publicly show any returns on investment from storage.

At a time of economic downturn when both skills and resources are in short supply, businesses have no option but to plan meticulously for the future of their storage operations.

What seems like a lot of money now could be worth its weight in gold in a couple of years. If you don't you could be wasting more than just 73p.

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