SMBs like the look of iSCSI

New iSCSI networked storage technology is grabbing the attention of some SMB executives.

An increasing number of small and midsized companies (SMBs) are turning to ISCI networked storage technology to meet backup and recovery requirements, according to a survey conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group.

The ESG industry analyst forum (formerly the Enterprise Storage Group) surveyed IT decision makers at 202 companies with fewer than 1,000 employees and found that 35% had adopted some kind of networked storage. Another 13% were actively planning such a deployment.

The majority of companies planning new deployments indicated a preference for iSCSi -- citing lower total costs of implementation and administration.

Data availability, centralizing backup systems and reducing recovery times were the top three reasons SMB executives said networked storage made sense to them, said Nancy Marrone-Hurley, a senior analyst with the Milford, Mass.-based analyst firm. "It's not like this isn't happening in the SMB space," she said. "It absolutely is."

Why iSCSI?

ISCSI is an Internet protocol-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. By carrying SCSI commands over IP networks, iSCSI can facilitate data transfers over intranets, LANs, wide area networks (WANs) and manage storage over long distances.

Experts point out that when iSCSI technology was first introduced a few years ago, adoption was slow because most companies were already invested in time-tested Fibre Channel (FC) storage area network (SAN) technology.

Today iSCSI is generating more interest because it is seen as a cost-effective way to create an initial SAN using existing IP networks.

"The cost of actual acquisition [between FC and iSCSI] really isn't that significantly different at this point in time," Marrone-Hurley said. "But what really is different is the cost of implementation, the cost of administration and the cost of training."

SMBs looking to beef up storage capacity should consider networked-attached storage (NAS) devices as a compliment to iSCSI networks, according to analysts at the Boston-based Yankee Group.

"NAS is a really promising technology for SMBs because you can have your storage attached to your network like any other network device," said Chris Liebert, a senior research analyst with Yankee's SMB team who specializes in storage. "You don't have to allocate a file server."

Last October, the firm surveyed 266 SMBs that told researchers that data availability and regulatory compliance needs are fueling the increased interest in networked storage. The company also found that SMBs planning new storage deployments are likely to go with NAS, iSCSI or both.

NAS can be a step toward a more sophisticated iSCSI or FC SAN system.

SMB storage market just getting started

Many SMBs need to do a better job of investigating storage options, Liebert said.

"SMBs aren't protecting themselves as well as they should be, given the number of products available," Liebert added. "Vendors need to do a better job of demonstrating the devastating impact of outages on SMBs."

Despite Hewlett-Packard's lead in the SMB storage space, and Dell trailing close behind, many other vendors are discovering the untapped potential of the SMB market, said Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB and home-office research at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

"You're beginning to see very interesting, lower priced kinds of storage solutions," Boggs said. "It's pretty much like Oklahoma territory. Whoever gets wagons there first gets the prime territory."

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