There’s certainly a lot of buzz surrounding hosted storage applications such as Google Apps, Office Live, Flickr, and hundreds of other online services, but when it comes to your business data, traditional disk-based (local) storage keeps it out of the hands of a third party and lets you control your digital assets yourself.
Most businesses have various data they need to keep safe, from database transactions, employee records, and customer project files to video files, images, e-mail messages, and much more. As megabytes of information continues to get created, it will need to be easily accessed. Many smaller businesses start out with a traditional file server, which all employees can access. This file server often hosts e-mail and shared applications. But as your storage needs grow, it’s important to have a more robust network storage solution that can grow with your business.
There are three main network storage options: direct attached storage, network attached storage, and a storage attached network.
DAS, commonly used by smaller businesses for its low cost and ease of use, is where an external storage device is directly attached to a server or an individual’s computer. Adding an external hard disk is the most common type of DAS. This solution is good, however, it relies on the connected computer to be on and available.
NAS is a very good option for growing businesses that need an economical and relatively easy-to-manage solution. NAS is an array of hard drives directly attached to the network and is cheaper than most SAN solutions. Unlike DAS solutions, NAS devices can more easily grow with your business-storage needs.
SAN is its own storage network and can grow from a few hard disks to hundreds. It’s more expensive and complex than other storage solutions but is ideal for larger enterprises with very large storage needs.
What’s Right for You?
When deciding what storage needs are best for you, think about what kind of information your business is generating. Also consider how fast your business has grown in the past year and what kind of growth you expect in the future. You’ll want to invest in a storage system that can scale with your needs for the next five years, and then it should be time to double the size of your purchase.
If you find that your storage needs are not growing and are pretty consistent from quarter to quarter, you’re probably fine using a traditional file server. For example, maybe you run a small consulting business or sell used car parts. Your data storage needs are minimal and perhaps limited to e-mailing, web browsing, and creating small text documents such as invoices. But let’s say you have a law firm with a small employee count and your storage needs are growing by gigabytes every quarter. Maybe you find that your legal cases are increasingly relying on large images and audio files. In this scenario your storage needs require a scalable solution that can grow with your business, be easily managed, and is secure. In this case you should consider a NAS solution, which is economical, robust, scalable, and secure.
No matter what solution you invest in, ensure your data is also backed up and can be recovered. In the event of a disaster, accidental data loss, or hacker attack, your data is one of the most important corporate assets you’ve got. Many businesses have closed not because of a physical loss in a disaster but because they could not resurrect critical pieces of information or reach out to their customers.
Ramon Ray is the editor and technology evangelist at Smallbiztechnology.com.