You have your RAID arrays, your storage area network, your service-level agreements, your compliance records, but do you have a clear view of your overall storage goals?
To put it another way--a way your CEO and key business partners will understand--is your storage infrastructure working hard enough to bring strategic value to your company?
That question might seem too big and vague to ponder, particularly for storage managers already struggling to keep their heads above water amid a rising tide of data demands, regulatory requirements and availability expectations.
But as storage becomes simultaneously more complex and more essential to mission-critical business operations, the idea of creating a company-wide storage strategy is starting to look less and less like a luxury and more and more like a requirement.
That storage-management strategy should have as its key objective the goal of delivering gains toward the enterprise's larger IT strategy, observes Norman Owens, a senior storage architect and member of the Storage Networking Industry Association's End User Council.
To deliver those gains, managers need first to get a handle on what they have and how well it's performing, a sometimes challenging proposition in the age of interrelated and co-dependent storage arrays, servers, and databases.
Step one most often is to inventory existing storage infrastructure-- your physical storage; the applications and data within those systems; and the processes and people required to deliver those storage services. During the inventory process, storage experts say, managers shouldn't neglect to take a good look at their backup and recovery procedures as well.
Managers of larger or more complex storage empires often turn to storage resource management (SRM) programs, which work across the enterprise to give a unified view into multiple storage platforms and systems. Such software can help corporations fine-tune their systems by identifying and utilizing free space across multiple servers and eliminating duplication of files.
After all that fact-finding, it's time to put your knowledge to work. Specifically, you should be able to articulate what your IT department's goals are, how those goals in turn fit into the larger business objectives, and how storage can or should work to fulfill those goals. Is flexibility to accommodate rapid business growth a priority? Cost savings to offset slow or stable growth? Centralizing storage to data centers? Standardizing backup and disaster-recovery policies?
Whatever IT's goal, the storage strategy should match, experts say. To ensure that happens, some larger firms have begun adopting standard operating procedures to govern how storage is added. Others are relying more heavily than before on ever-more-detailed service level agreements, which work between storage provider and client to ensure both parties are meeting or exceeding their storage expectations. In the end, the goal is the same: to ensure storage is not just carrying its weight, but actively contributing to the bottom line.
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