IT efficiency through data classification, consolidation and control

Storage shops with growing data stores in tough economies can save money and leverage existing systems by classifying data, consolidating data and better controlling the infrastructure.

Let's face it, the credit crunch is biting hard, and we all have to think of ways to tighten our belts, cut costs, and ensure that we remain a valuable asset to our employers and the environment we manage.

There are a number of ways in which savings can be made through infrastructure changes alone -- each has a different implication on the overall cost associated with the day-to-day running of the business and its back-end infrastructure.

Here are my three C's to a cheaper storage environment.

Classify data

What is your data worth? Does the cost of the platform it resides on match the value of the data to the business? There are no set rules to data classification, but companies that have taken the time to understand what the value of their data is, and to classify data in a way that allows them to position it onto different cost tiers have quickly redrawn their architecture and strategy to a more economic model. They've ensured that ongoing costs and capital expenditure is led by need and not by the selling skills of the vendor.

Consolidate data

Consolidation has long been a favourite way to save money. There was a time when a centralised store for all data was the vanguard of the storage area network (SAN) model; however, for all of the benefits of a storage network, the price required to maintain multiple disk arrays over time can cripple the operational expenditures of a medium- to large-sized organization. As companies grow, so do their storage requirements. Consolidating data onto a reduced number of physical arrays leads to a smaller footprint within the data centre (and hence smaller dependence on running costs for power and cooling), which can mean a reduction in notoriously high yearly maintenance costs.

Control the infrastructure

I recently worked with a client that spent a lot of time fighting fires, trying to do standard operations in an unstable and unwieldy storage infrastructure. A small team of very good administrators spent more than 90% of their time trying to fix legacy problems or deal with a poorly maintained (and inherited) environment. Many weekends and evenings were spent trying to locate faults within a 'snakes wedding' of Fibre cabling, each cable seemingly the pillar that supported the infrastructure in which it was a part. Over time, the environment was stabilised by ensuring that all systems within the SAN were running on the latest supported firmware levels; in addition, more rigorous standards were put in place for the deployment of new systems. This, combined with a slow (and cautious) clean up of the physical environment, allowed administrators to focus more on the progression of the environment and less on the reactions to events.

By changing the methods by which you manage your environment, a savvy admin can ensure that the focus of economics is on the value of managing the environment, rather than the cost of the operations.

BIO: Allaster Finke is a senior consultant for GlassHouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services. Finke has more than 8 years of experience in the design and delivery of IT solutions, with a particular focus on SAN, storage and backup technologies.

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