Storage gets backburner treatment

Australian IT managers are taking a "she'll be right mate" approach to storage, adding capacity only when it's needed and leaving the manageability issues for later.

While database applications remain the main driver of overall storage growth, most older disk-based data is being generated by e-mail. To keep costs down IT shops are opting for short-term solutions to manage exploding storage volumes.

The value of an organisation's data does not remain constant throughout its life, but few companies are exploiting this fact, according to the StorageTek survey which listed the top 10 applications driving storage growth.

More than half of the organisations surveyed had not used 80 per cent of their disk-based data in the previous 20 days. This makes document-based applications, and e-mail, prime candidates to store 'more for less' with data lifecycle management strategies.

Monash University systems librarian Simon Huggard admits most users are unproductive when it comes to managing storage, often keeping data on local PC drives and only copying crucial data to network drives.

Huggard said better management of older documents and e-mail could help enormously but in the interim there is a limit on employees' storage of 100MB for e-mail and the option to purchase more space and file 20MB of storage on Novell-based file servers.

"Storage is important for us because Monash is so diverse with a range of technology such as Sun Solaris Web servers, Windows 2000 servers, Linux and other Unix boxes; but it is not easy managing over 500 servers," he said.

"With the cheapness of disk now, we certainly will get to a crisis situation some time in the future where we just have to cut data according to age and archive it somewhere, but that may not be too difficult or expensive.

"We are archiving some data to CD-ROM as needed, so I don't think we're missing out on these benefits, especially when it can be done very cheaply at a local level and can be quite expensive at an enterprise level.

Harlequin Enterprises IT manager, Paul Singh, said e-mail has created a huge problem as users don't realise attachments are part of storage.

"I spend an hour a day at least managing storage. We also promote no business-related material be stored locally and that it should be on the server drive so it is suitably backed up," he said.

"Data, images and other attachments are a driver for storage growth, especially when we have the graphics people designing a cover of a book and attachments are sent back and forth for approval which is a huge file being multiplied."

Singh said IT also checks files to see when they were last modified.

"For example if a file from 1997 is just sitting there and hasn't been touched, we follow it up to see if we can get rid of it. It's time-consuming doing this for each department, but we believe in housekeeping rather than more systems," he said.

"We have also set up a procedure where a representative from each department is responsible for keeping storage under control. If a department's files are out of control we ask them to delete what is unnecessary and archive the remainder on CDs; we do a lot of that."

Harlequin implemented a Network Attached Storage (NAS) a few months ago which provides 100 gigs of storage and cost $7000, but Singh said it was well worthwhile.

"We also spend up to $10,000 just on hard drives a year, replacing old ones. It's the part that gets the most wear and tear, so if you want to live without sleepless nights, it is best to change your drive around now and again and prices are going down too."

Storage options

Looking at the principal applications driving overall storage growth, databases and e-mail were far and away the main factors. When asked to choose up to three from a list of 10 applications, 70.6 per cent of organisations nominated database applications; 67.6 per cent said e-mail. Responding organisations said document-based applications (55.9 per cent), data warehousing (39.7 per cent) and imaging (30.9 per cent) were the other important drivers. Next in line were Internet content (17.6 per cent), video and audio (14.7 per cent) and CRM (11.8 per cent) were nominated by fewer than one in five organisations. The other categories were ERP (4.4 per cent) and other applications (11.8 per cent).

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