data storage

Five Steps to Data Storage

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Wayne Hall examines how DVD and Blu Ray discs are becoming a real option for firms seeking long term storage.
Microboards’s storage specialist Wayne Hall discusses some of the key points to address when planning your organization’s storage system.
Storage is a complex business these days. Businesses face an almost overwhelming choice of differing technologies and vendors, and it can be very difficult to separate marketing hype from fact and decide which systems are the best for your organization’s requirements. The situation is further exacerbated by the increasingly complex raft of corporate governance legislation and industry regulation that businesses must comply with, since much of this involves a large degree of data retention which requires a robust long term storage solution.
Before rushing into a decision about which solution to invest in, and potentially making a costly mistake, it’s wise to assess the company’s specific requirements, in a step-by-step process taking into account: business needs, the regulatory environment and the budget available. Here are some points to consider:
o Can you afford to be locked into a proprietary system or a specific supplier?
Not all storage devices make it easy to transfer their media to an alternative device. If the hardware you are considering fails, how easy will it be to remove the physical media and load it onto a replacement device? Worse still, if the hardware supplier should ever go out of business, will it be possible to transfer your backup media to third party hardware?
o How long do industrial or company regulations require data to be held?
Longevity is a serious issue. Systems which rely on magnetic media such as tape or hard discs are prone to corruption due to electromagnetic interference, and mechanical failure. This means that the data they store will have to migrated to new systems at regular intervals, two to three times per decade in order to maintain data integrity; this can add significantly to the total cost of ownership. Optical media offers a far greater lifespan, with DVD and Blu-Ray often certified to last up to 50 years and with the new technology available there is practically zero chance of corruption.
o Where will the hardware reside?
Server rooms are often in basements that may be vulnerable to flooding, or physical storage areas where they are susceptible to being knocked around. What would happen if the data storage unit was physically damaged – would the data survive? Server rooms can also generate a lot of hear and it they are individually cooled, the risk of a system failure is significantly increased, so they require air conditioning systems which can be expensive to install and run.
o How quick and easy does the retrieval process need to be?
This can be influenced by the number of drivers, from compliance requirements to simple business logistics. How often is it likely that stored data will need to be retrieved, and how quickly does the retrieval request need to be fulfilled? Tape backup systems can be slow at the best of times and a high number of retrieval requests can really grind things to a halt. Hard Disks and DVD/Blu-Ray Libraries offer much faster data retrieval and are better at handling higher volumes.
o What is the budget available?
Will the budget for the project be enough to buy the right kind and the necessary volume of storage? While the traditional storage technologies such as Tape and Hard Disk have held the upper hand over DVD in terms of storage capacity; the arrival of Blu-Ray has completely altered the landscape and future developments such as holography promise to provide even more competition. Currently the cost per GB favours Tape and HDD, however with Blu-Ray media costs predicted to fall consistently, it will only be a matter of months before Blu-Ray media becomes more competitive. On the hardware side, Blu-Ray already offers a lower total cost of ownership per GB than either Tape or HDD systems. DVD/Blu-Ray storage libraries offer solid, reliable long term storage, faster retrieval times that tape based systems and because they’re based on such a ubiquitous media format, there are no worries about future compatibility problems.

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