No matter the size of the company, storage can be the bane of an IT administrator's existence. Managing storage can be an endless race to keep up with exploding amounts of data, maintain regulatory compliance and manage the costs of increasing storage capacities.
For midmarket companies with few IT resources and almost certainly no expert on staff, complex data-storage issues can be particularly thorny to address, although these businesses are trying. According to a Gartner Inc. survey, 45 percent of SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses) queried identified storage as a top hardware purchase in 2007. Solving storage problems usually starts by consolidating data on NAS (network-attached storage) devices, ditching the individual servers that SMBs often have scattered throughout their company.
Vendors have figured out what the midmarket needs: a total NAS solution that's quick to install, easy to manage, inexpensive to purchase and maintain and, often, expandable as the company grows. More and more top-tier vendors, including IBM , Hewlett-Packard and EMC Corp ., are making forays into the SMB market, so choices range from vendors established in the enterprise space to smaller players that have always designed products for SMBs. If storage is a concern at your midsized company, check out these ten cost-effective yet highly functional solutions.
1. Adaptec Inc. Snap Server 650: At $15,045, the Snap Server is the most expensive product on this list, but it delivers scalability, performance and features. The 1U box starts with 1.2TB of capacity and can scale up to 64.2TB with additional modules. It has two dual-core AMD Opteron processers and 2GB of memory for speedy four-way throughput. The server's disk drives are hot-swappable, and it has integrated CA eTrust Antivirus software. Also, the Snap Server is managed via a Web browser, minimizing the learning curve faced by your company's IT staff. Unlike some of its less costly competitors, the Snap Server supports a range of network clients, including most flavors of Microsoft Windows; Mac OS 8, 9 and X; Sun Solaris 7, 8 and 9; as well as HP-UX and AIX versions, Red Hat Linux 7 and 8, and versions of Fedora Core.
2. Buffalo Technology Inc. TeraStation Pro II: This NAS box is inexpensive — ranging from $700 for the 1TB version to $2,300 to the 4TB version (prices depend on the reseller) — and its technologies will be familiar to all network administrators. It has two USB 2.0 ports, four Serial ATA hard drives, quick-swap hard-drive trays, Active Directory support and four fault-tolerant RAID modes. With its LCD display and Web-based management, this device should be easy for even the greenest network administrator to manage. Geared toward Microsoft shops, the Tech TeraStation Pro II supports only Windows network clients.
3. EMC Corp. CLARiiON AX150: EMC is one top-tier vendor that is actively courting companies that have 20 to 200 employees, and it released its Insignia line of hardware and software storage products just last year. The 2U rack-mountable box combines EMC's CLARiiON RAID architecture with Serial ATA disks, is available in either single- or dual-controller modes, has hot-swappable drives, and scales from 750GB to as much as 6TB of storage capacity. After installing the box on your network via a four-step installation utility, you can manage storage from anywhere on your network. The Fibre Channel model offers operating system support for Windows, Linux, Novell NetWare, Solaris and VMware; the iSCSI model supports just Windows and Linux platforms. These disk arrays range in price fromt $4,500 to $7,200, depending on the retail outlet.
4. Hitachi Data Systems TagmaStore WMS 100 with NAS option: Aiming at SMBs with 100 to 400 employees, the WMS is easy to manage via a GUI and has hot-swappable components and RAID 6 features. This all-Serial-ATA model's capacity scales from 2TB to as high as 42TB, and, depending on the reseller, entry prices start at $4,700 to $6,200. The WMS 100 also supports mixed Windows and Unix environments and can be used as the foundation of a SAN (storage area network) if your company needs to further evolve its storage architecture in the future.
5. Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks 600 All-in-One Storage System: Hewlett-Packard has combined features from SAN, NAS, data protection and storage management into a box designed for the "IT generalist." The vendor claims that the StorageWorks 600 can be set up and serving files in less than 30 minutes. Larger than some of the other products in this list, this 5U system ships with either 1.5TB or 3TB of Serial ATA capacity, uses five RAID modes, includes end-to-end management for Windows servers, and tightly integrates with Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. Because even the smallest company may use operating systems other than Windows, HP provides iSCSI provisioning for Linux and VMware. The 1.5TB model costs $7,159, and the 3TB model costs $9,949.
6. IBM System x3650 NAS: Like Hewlett-Packard and EMC, IBM is also grabbing for a share of the SMB space with a preconfigured NAS box designed for IT organizations with little or no storage expertise. Starting at $7,000, the x3650 supports Unix, Linux and Windows network clients; has 1.2TB SAS capacity; and includes Tivoli CDP transparent backup software. It, too, has hot-swappable components and RAID modes for high availability. IBM's management software allows for 24/7 remote management.
7. Iomega Corp. StorCenter Pro NAS 450r: Iomega's offering is geared specifically to the smaller companies in the midmarket space, and it's priced for it: $4,999 for the 2TB model and $3,999 for the 1TB model. It supports three modes of RAID, four hot-swappable Serial ATA drives and an Internet connection firewall. StorCenter Pro NAS 450r is compatible with a variety of Windows, Mac and Linux clients, as well as NetWare. It also ships with CA's eTrust Antivirus software, as well as EMC's Retrospect Express for backup and disaster recovery.
8. Kano Technologies Corp. NetCOR NAS RAID Storage System: The NetCOR NAS boxes are designed for SMBs or workgroups, and their prices will appeal to budget-conscious customers. Ranging from 1TB to 3TB capacities, these models start at just $1,044 (when you buy directly from the vendor); the most expensive model costs just $2,659. The device supports Serial ATA, RAID and hot-swappable drives.The NetCOR NAS RAID Storage System also includes an integrated client-backup utility, and it supports Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.
9. Netgear ReadyNAS 1100: This NAS product is the only one on this list to claim energy efficiency, with power consumption of 80 watts. Also, unlike most of the other NAS boxes on this list, the ReadyNAS 1100 uses an embedded, customized Linux-based operating system rather than the more common Windows Storage Server, and it supports Windows, Mac and Linux clients. The device features two USB ports, hot-swappable trays and a browser-based management interface. It integrates with Active Directory, supports several modes of RAID, has four Serial ATA channels, and comes in 2TB ($2,149) or 3TB ($3,149) capacities.
10. Network Appliance Inc. StoreVault S500: Like Hewlett-Packard's offering, Network Appliance's SMB storage solution is also an all-in-one box. Similar to a SAN, it offers NAS-like file sharing and block-level storage over Fibre Channel or iSCSI, and it supports DAS (direct-attached storage). The devices start at 1TB of capacity and can scale to as much as 6TB. The StoreVault S500 supports a variety of client operating systems — including Red Hat Linux, several flavors of Windows, Solaris, SuSE Linux and Mac OS X — and it uses a Windows-based utility for its management tools. Like the other products, it offers some RAID modes for availability and has hot-swappable components. The 2TB model starts at $6,700, depending on the online retailer.
Of course, NAS isn't the only storage option for SMBs moving away from DAS. Storage vendors, such as Dell and its partner EMC, are also targeting the midmarket with SAN solutions designed for smaller companies. In general, however, SANs are more complex and expensive than NAS solutions.
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