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Storage Management Best Practices.

The exploding growth of corporate data combined with falling storage prices has created both an opportunity and a challenge for Information Technology managers. More affordable storage technology allows IT managers to purchase additional storage devices and store rapidly increasing volumes of corporate data. Yet managing these expanding storage networks is becoming a complex, resource-intensive task. In many organizations, Storage Management is executed without strategy, reducing cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Applying the discipline of Storage Management -- combined with the appropriate technology and a well-crafted set of Storage Management Best Practices -- can provide significant business value, helping enterprises to increase revenues and decrease costs. This paper discusses common approaches to Storage Management as well as best practices that can be used to enhance the business value of both storage technology and stored data. It also discusses key functionality to look for in the selection of a Storage Management product.

The Most Valuable Asset

The expanding range of IT devices, platforms and applications implemented across the enterprise complicates the Storage Management picture. Data can be physically located in geographically diverse locations and on technologically disparate devices. Managing these resources across the corporate Information Grid is no easy task.

Yet the complexities of managing heterogeneous technology networks are not the IT manager's most pressing challenge. For despite the user community's growing understanding of distributed computing, above anything else users require a responsive, available application environment. It is the application that has the most direct effect on the corporate bottom line, enabling employees to efficiently communicate, handle tasks, and engage in activities designed to expand revenues and decrease costs.

Businesses depend heavily on employees' ability to access data and process it through an application. Poor Storage Management practices can act as a stone dropped into the enterprise's financial pool, creating a potentially disastrous ripple effect throughout the business processes. Unavailable data spreads deleterious effects to corporate applications, which are rendered ineffective through their lack of current data. Disabled applications slow or even halt business operations, negatively impacting the enterprise's financial success in one continuous stream, as shown in Figure 1.

Consider the example of an online auction service, which exists to join buyers and sellers electronically. Through a Web auction application, the service collects data from thousands of auction participants. Should the application become inaccessible, the company's business transactions stop, cutting off cash flow. Without protecting the data that feeds the applications, the online auction house is out of business.

Developing a Strategic Storage Management Approach

IT managers must develop a strategic approach and a slate of best practices that protect its most important asset: the data supporting applications. Many Storage Management tools are available to protect data through routine backups and centrally manage the Information Grid. But such tools alone are insufficient for organizations preparing to move competitively into the 21st century. The strategic approach, a distributed Storage Management solution, ensures not only that the data is backed up but also that the entire Information Grid can be recreated in business-need priority in the event of a disaster. By implementing a strategic Storage Management approach, IT managers can:

* Minimize the resources consumed for Storage Management operations by transferring and storing the least amount of information necessary to protect the Information Grid.

* Extend the life of their current network infrastructure and processing power, and

* Produce greater returns with lower media costs on the company's investment in secondary tape resources.

These benefit can be achieved in a centrally managed environment by selecting the right Storage Management solution and implementing the best practices described in the following section.

Storage Management Practices

Every enterprise relies on a set of Storage Management practices. Some common practices developed over the years may not be the most effective or efficient methodology when viewed as a corporate strategy. In contrast, Best Practices help corporations improve not only the effectiveness of the Storage Management strategy but also its efficiency. For example, while improving the efficiency of a task may enable faster execution, improving the effectiveness of the process may involve eliminating unnecessary steps and automating the remainder. To deliver maximum business value, it is important to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of the Storage Management strategy.

This section compares common Storage Management practices with Storage Management best practices.

Common Practice

In most organizations today, Storage Management in executed inefficiently. The process is labor-intensive and error-prone, and it may offer insufficient disaster recovery protection. Some common Storage Management practices frequently observed include:

* Installing a tape drive installed on each server, an expensive option that does not provide high reliability.

* Manually monitoring backup jobs, or performing no monitoring, which may create incomplete backup tape sets.

* Managing tapes for each server which requires significant manual effort to remove the previous backup and insert tapes for the next backup.

* Manually moving numerous daily backup tapes away from the server for disaster recovery, creating not only a staffing issue but also a resource constraint during restoration.

* Delaying restores to obtain the latest backup, then waiting for tapes to be scanned until the needed file is found.

* Procrastinating on the difficult process of Disaster Recovery Planning, creating lengthy recovery delays in the event of a disaster, potentially jeopardizing the company's ability to do business.

Best Practices for Storage Management

Enterprises that recognize the high priority and potential return on investment of a well-developed Storage Management strategy commonly develop a series of best practices. Such practices typically improve IT efficiency and effectiveness, while improving system availability to users. Best practices for Storage Management include:

* Using a central database of files under Storage Management, which enables central monitoring and control and reduces the amount of data stored.

* Backing up only changed data, which improves backup time, reduces network demands, and saves on storage resources.

* Relocating backup tapes for offsite storage to support disaster recovery efforts. The storage manager should provide a tape "pull" list, as well as a directory of the tape contents.

* Allowing end-users as well as LAN administrators to perform restores. Since most restores are due to end-users accidentally deleting files, empowering end users to restore only their own files saves IT time and effort.

* Automatically restarting restore operations in case of network failure during a restore operation.

* Implementing a Storage Management policy as needed, across heterogeneous platforms.

* Archiving data using a centrally managed archival/retrieval system, so that end-users and applications benefit from robust records retention services without the overhead of direct management of these activities.


By utilizing tools that support the best Storage Management practices, IT managers can reduce the time and effort spent on Storage Management, while providing superior service to the end-user community. These best practices support a process-based approach, using a resilient and reliable Storage Management infrastructure.

Eric Stouffer is director of strategy and product management, storage product portfolio at Tivoli (Tucson, AZ).
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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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