Data storage options for enterprise
What is the best storage solution for your enterprise? IT managers are faced with numerous choices as the amount of data that businesses and consumers generate and store expands rapidly. Vendors are offering end-to-end solutions that have been designed with power consumption, scalability, security, reliability and accessibility in mind, not to mention questions of legal compliance and data sovereignty.
Primary goals for any storage solution include security, redundancy and file sharing. Then come goals such as performance, reliability, availability and scalability.
At a high level there are two options for storage: on-premises or hosted. Within those two broad categories are numerous options relating to hardware, software and control.
The primary advantage of an on-premises solution is that you retain full control of hardware, data and backups. If your systems are robust, this should allow you to meet your security requirements. It’s a popular option for organizations that must store information locally to comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
Deploying storage locally is typically a three-step process: deploying the hardware, migrating the data and configuring the system.
In terms of hardware, the various media all have their pros and cons. Tape drives are generally inexpensive but are also slow, making them best suited to archiving. Hard disk drives (HDDs) offer good performance at a reasonable cost for primary data that needs to be regularly accessed, while solid-state drives (SSDs) balance high cost with high speed and low volatility.
When it comes to system configurations, options include direct-attached storage (DAS), network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs). The choice mostly comes down to your requirements around collaboration and access; moving from DAS to NAS to SAN offers a progression of greater access to more users across more user endpoints.
Hosted storage sees your data housed at an offsite location, typically a separate data center or, more commonly, a cloud provider. As cloud services become more widespread they’ve become cheaper and more secure, and offer more capabilities.
Cloud services are often cheaper than locally hosted alternatives as they take advantages of economies of scale; they also free their clients from the need to purchase, house, power, cool and staff storage infrastructure, and are easily scalable to meet changing business requirements.
However, they can raise concerns about data sovereignty – a particular concern where sensitive data like legal or health records must be stored within a particular jurisdiction or nation, and some customers may be concerned about vendor lock-in.
A popular approach is to adopt a hybrid solution, where sensitive data is stored locally with the remainder hosted at an external provider. This way, mission-critical business processes and sensitive intellectual property can be retained in-house while less-sensitive data and processes can be hosted.
It also allows businesses to comply with any requirements around sensitive data and how/where it is stored.
The future of data is… blockchain?
Enterprise storage is always evolving – businesses develop new products and processes, and vendors race to find new and better ways to assist their customers. Storage virtualization, software-defined storage and ‘leaf-spine’ data centres have all emerged, but one technology that’s in its infancy – and may revolutionise storage – is blockchain.
Its proponents claim it can decentralize storage (thanks to its distributed ledger), vastly improving security and virtually eliminating the possibility of massive data breaches.
It remains to be seen whether this will come to pass, but one thing is certain: our societies and economies are becoming ever-more data-centric, meaning data storage will remain a primary concern for citizens, businesses and governments alike.