Streamlining storage processes will help admins survive economic crisis

Things are going to get tough for storage professionals. However, the rate of data growth is still increasing and the requirements for data compliance aren't going to change. The bottom line is that to survive, storage administrators must become more efficient.

Despite the economic crisis, the outlook for storage vendors hasn't been as bad as some other sectors. The rate of data growth is still increasing and the requirements for data compliance aren't going to change.

However, the collapse of some large banks and the general shortage of credit will continue to affect everyone. The fact is that IT is an overhead, and as the economic slowdown really hits, changes will be inevitable, both for storage administrators personally and for their employers. What is being done, and what could be done, to help get storage professionals through this?

I believe that any storage technology that can demonstrate real return on investment will prevail as a winner during these times. While crude oil prices have decreased since the beginning of the summer, electricity prices remain very high. This will continue to drive the IT industry towards solutions that offer efficient use of existing resources. Server virtualisation would be an obvious start, but also energy-efficient disk arrays and servers.

Furthermore, an increase in migrations to purpose-built (and therefore more efficient) data centres is likely, and for smaller organisations, more use of hosted (and/or managed) services. Data deduplication has been a talking point for a while now but has mainly been restricted to disk-based backup environments. As IT budgets are cut, the potential reductions in primary and backup storage offered by deduplication will be very hard to ignore.

I fear that business continuity and disaster recovery plans will be cut, although I urge organisations to consider the implications of not having reliable and routinely tested processes to cope with the unexpected.

Things are going to get difficult for individual storage professionals. Pay freezes and redundancies are likely, especially but not exclusively, if you work in the financial sectors. This is not a new threat to meet administrators in this country -- off-shore outsourcing was a recent threat to our positions -- but what can be done to preserve our employment?

The driver will be for us as storage administrators to become more efficient. Many routine daily tasks should be automated, if they are not already. Strict processes should be devised and written for managing backups, assigning disk storage and zoning, so that they can be performed by junior administrators. This will free up the more skilled storage professionals for a rollout of more efficient technologies, with everyone keeping a very close eye on the bottom line.

As the economic crisis deepens, things are bound to get tougher. The challenge to implement more efficient technologies and processes with diminishing resources will increase. However, the growth in data volumes will not let up and this alone should mean that our bread-and-butter work will allow us to weather the storm and come out stronger.

About the author: David Boyd is a senior consultant at Glasshouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services, with more than seven years experience in backup and storage, with a major focus on designing and implementing backup solutions for blue-chip companies

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