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Fri 14 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Fancy a byte?

The Advisor takes an indepth look into what options are available for regional companies looking to update their IT storage capabilities.

The Advisor takes an indepth look into what options are available for regional companies looking to update their IT storage capabilities.

As small and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) save more data and rely on it more, they are turning to networked storage despite the burden of limited budgets and IT expertise.

Across verticals there is a continuous increase in the amount of relevant business information that needs to be processed and stored.

Some of the data needs to be stored for daily retrieval or as long-term records, some storage provides one of the core functions of any SME, that of information retention and retrieval.

According to industry estimates, the SME storage market is pegged around US$5bn worldwide and estimates the growth at close to 13%, with the commercial segment at 11% and the large enterprise and corporate sectors growing at only around 5%.

Of this storage pie, the Middle East SME storage market is as high as 75% to 80% and is expected to expand over the next three-to-five years.

A quick look at certain sectors show that the following have accelerated growth levels and are poised to continue over the next few years:

• Content Depots, like Flickr, YouTube and Google will consume 25 times as much storage space by 2010 as they do now.

• Media/ TV: 1000% growth a year due to digitising of the archive and archiving of current and coming content.

• Banking: Requirements to keep track of financial transactions and records, as well as compliance (Basel II, MiFID, etc.).

Kevin Vine, EMEA Manager Buffalo Technologies, said, "In the Middle East, like the rest of EMEA, the market for personal data storage has grown enormously and this need is pushing for larger capacities and faster data transfer rates."

Independent analyst group, IDC, has said that the Middle East is on the verge of a data boom, and most regional organisations are not prepared.

Software investment in the Middle East remains strong, but only leads to the generation of more data which, in turn, must be backed-up and retrieved for immediate reference in the region's fast moving organisations.

Oil and gas conglomerates, retail, banks, governments, and telcos are all investing significantly in software applications to manage their growing customer base.

Fiona Moon, CommVault Marketing Director stated: "Data growth in the Middle East is progressing faster than most emerging markets, and we believe that this trend will continue."

IDC's view that the region is on the verge of a data boom fully supports our existing position that regional organisations should be moving now to establish a clearly defined storage investment policy the places crucial importance on leading-edge back-up and recovery technologies.
Across the board, there is still a vast amount of untapped storage to be digitised in the shape of paper records and forms.

Data storage technologies and companies in this space need to address the entire life cycle from document capture to archiving.

What is Data Storage?

In layman's terms, 'Data Storage' refers to information recorded onto a form of semiconductor for immediate retrieval such as a random access memory (RAM) and sometimes other forms of fast but temporary storage.

Additionally, storage today more commonly refers to mass storage for retrieval after a length of time.

The mode of storage uses optical discs, forms of magnetic storage such as hard disks, and other types that are slower than RAM, but of a more permanent nature.

It necessary to understand the actual definitions of storage and how it relates to memory. The fundamental architecture of Personal Computers featured a hard drive for storage of data and RAM for instant retrieval of applications.

However, with the creation of numerous mass storage devices such as Flash Memory, CDs, and ZIP drives - to name a few - the technical difference between memory and mass storage devices, has been blurred.

Why store information?

In a study commissioned by CA, the independent London-based consultancy Gyro International found that demand for new approaches to data protection is growing.

91% of those surveyed said that saving data continuously would be advantageous. 80% of participants are familiar with the concept and topic of continuous data protection (CDP), but only 50% are aware of the benefits CDP brings to a business.

And finally, 40% currently use CDP or plan to implement it within the next year.

The maturity of a storage market and the assets linked to information, data storage or data protection has a much higher focus. Archiving becomes a necessity due to international regulations and corporate survival alike.

The lack of legacy systems allows for SME's to adopt the newest trends and technologies.

According to Mr. Stephan Wolfs, SWD Business Development Manager, HP Middle East:

"Data protection has become key and HP's storage portfolio offers solutions for SME's to implement data protection techniques without the need for unrealistic investments: eg."

"HP DataProtector backup software is significantly less expensive. Other solutions such as Disk-to-Disk (D2D) and Virtual Library Systems (VLS), receive very good response from the market hinting towards a trend of online archiving."
Since Middle East customers are facing challenges in harnessing the growth of their Server and Storage infrastructure, they are looking for answers from the vendors to reduce the complexity, increase the utilisation of previous investments and provide tools to predict further acquisition needs.

Archiving solutions such as File Archiving Software (FAS) are easy to implement and the Enterprise Integrated Archiving Platform (IAP) is installed in minutes rather than in days.

Replication has always been on the forefront, both as a means for data protection as well as disaster recovery (DR).

"We see increased interest in replication from a DR point of view or to relay SME branch offices with corporate headquarters," adds Wolfs.

"The Midrange EVA offers array-based replication and tight, integrated failover facilities with the Operating System. True 3-site replication is also available in the HP Storage portfolio. As a leader in servers and storage, HP is uniquely positioned to offer application to storage management."

One weakness of traditional backups: Because data is normally only saved daily (or even weekly) through nightly backups, the reconstructed data is only as current as the most recent tape.

In the worst-case scenario for daily backups, all data from the past 24 hours could be lost.

"CDP, in contrast to traditional backup processes, continuously saves all changes to data, thus protecting users around the clock from data loss," says Hussam Qasem, Senior Technical Sales consultant at CA.

"With CDP, IT managers can "rewind" the saved data to any point in time (rewind technology) and quickly reconstruct the status of that data set. CA is the first company to offer this integrated continuous data protection with its CA Recovery Management Solution."

Types of storage

Historically, memory and storage were respectively called primary storage and secondary storage.

Broadly defined; Primary Storage is the main memory and is directly accessible from the Central Processing Unit (CPU) while Secondary memory is not directly accessible by the CPU.

In addition, there is also Tertiary storage such as a large tape library and off-line storage, which is not connected to a CPU.

Primary storage or main memory

Primary storage, presently known as memory, allows the CPU to continuously read information stored in the memory.

Data actively operated on is stored in the random access memory (RAM).
Usually this type of memory falls under the volatile memory category as the information is lost when not powered).

Secondary storage

Any information stored in secondary storage needs to be accessed via input/output channels such as USB slots or floppy disk/CD drives. Secondary storage is not volatile as it does not lose the data when the device is powered down.

The storage capacity of secondary storage is usually much higher than primary storage and data is stored for a longer time.

Some examples of secondary storage technologies are: Floppy disks, used for off-line storage, hard disks, used for secondary storage and magnetic tape data storage, used for tertiary and off-line storage.

Tertiary storage

Tertiary storage or tertiary memory is the third level of storage. It is used for archival of rarely accessed information due to the slow information access speeds which are much slower than secondary storage.

Tertiary storage is primarily useful for extremely large data that has to be accessed without human operators. Typical examples include tape libraries and optical jukeboxes.

Off-line storage

Off-line storage, also known as disconnected storage, is a data stored on a medium or a device that is not under the control of a CPU.

The medium is recorded, usually in a secondary or tertiary storage device, and then physically removed or disconnected. It must be inserted or connected by a human operator before a computer can access it again.

Off-line storage is used to transfer information, since the detached medium can be easily physically transported.

Additionally in case a disaster destroys the original data, a medium in a remote location will be unaffected, enabling disaster recovery.

Most SME's choose to use secondary and tertiary storage media such as optical discs and flash memory devices, and to much lesser external removable hard disk drives.

In enterprise uses, magnetic tape is predominant. Older examples are floppy disks, ZIP disks, or punch cards.

Key elements of storage

Backup, not to mention recovery, is usually a laborious process. To prevent data from being lost, it is usually saved regularly on magnetic tape, which can then be used to reconstruct the data from a backup point in time as needed.

SMEs are the biggest consumers of large inexpensive disks. With mechanical drives now breaking the 1 terrabyte (TB) barrier at prices less than US$0.25 per Gigabyte (GB), many SME's are utilising large disks in NAS appliances or home-grown file servers.

"However, since Information Governance is non-existent, we don't see strong Information Lifecycle Management," adds Qasem.
Most SME's don't backup their data, and when they do, they tend to use optical discs (CDs/DVDs). Of those who backup, most would perform a full-level backup - as they've never heard of incremental backup.

The SME community requires the same levels of data storage and data availability as the Enterprise segment.

This evolution is translated in an increase of Enterprise Storage features becoming available for Entry Level and Midrange storage solutions.

In order to benefit from these solutions the customer data storage has to be networked, centrally managed, routed and protected.

However many SME customers don't want to increase the complexity of their storage systems in order to implement these solutions.

Ability to access information

The information, once stored, should be, easily accessible to a single PC or across a network.

As most data needs to update regularly it is necessary to have quick and easy access to the storage device.

Ability to change information

Read/write storage is critical so that information can be overwritten at any time.

A computer without some amount of read/write storage for primary storage purposes would be useless for many tasks.

Modern computers typically use read/write storage also for secondary storage.

Although some information can be stored once, sometimes called immutable storage, for tertiary and off-line storage.

Capacity and performance

Storage capacity is the total amount of stored information that a storage device or medium can hold. It is expressed as a quantity of bits, mega bytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). Currently most secondary storage offers in excess of 1 - 500 gigabytes.

The storage capacity requirements should be based on requirements and nature of data to be stored.

The performance is the rate at which the information is transferred from the CPU to the storage device.

The general rule of thumb is that the faster the rate of transfer the better the device.

Current method of storage

Mechanical hard drives are the most popular, by far. Followed by USB flash drives, flash memory cards, CDs and DVDs.
However, many enterprises store backup and historical data into magnetic tapes. Currently there are six commonly used storage methods:

Direct Attached Storage (DAS)

Direct-attached drives - the most common type of add-on storage - come in a single- or multiple-drive enclosure that typically hooks up to your PC via a USB 2.0, FireWire, or eSATA connection (eSATA is the latest and fastest of these types, but you're likely to need an adapter to connect it to your computer).

If you just want the storage drive to back up the internal disk inside the PC it's attached to, a single drive works fine.

A 500GB costs as little as US$175 to a 2 TB drive costing around US$2,000.

Portable storage

Portable USB hard disks and flash drives are great for travel, for moving large files around the office, and for laptop backup.

They can be a serious security risk if lost or stolen, however, so it's imperative to use encryption software on any drive that might leave the office.

The Lexar JumpDrive Lightning and the SanDisk Cruzer series are popular flash drives with strong encryption software.

Add-on software like Migo's Digital Vault (US$30) will secure any USB hard disk or flash drive.

Examples of portable drives that you can power through your USB port include Maxtor's OneTouch III Mini, Toshiba's Portable External Drive, and Western Digital's Passport.

Prices are typically US$100 to US$200 for 100GB to 250GB drives.

Note, however, that the disks in these compact cases tend to be 5400-rpm laptop drives, which are considerably slower than the 7200-rpm drives used in desktop PCs.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

For most small businesses, a NAS drive is the best option for central file storage and backup. NAS drives also provide Web and FTP access to your files, and act as print servers.

After initial setup, NAS drives require little administration (a boon for small businesses without IT staffs), and they can be secured with encryption and passwords.

Factoid1. Read-only storage, used for mass distribution of digital information (music, video, computer programs) includes CD, CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD.

2. Write once storage, used for tertiary and off-line storage include CD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R.

3. Slow write, fast read storage, used for tertiary and off-line storage include CD-RW, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM.

For top performance, choose models with gigabit ethernet connections, and make sure you have gigabit routers and switches in your office. Backups can be bandwidth intensive.

Two excellent NAS products designed for small businesses are the Iomega StorCenter Pro 150d (US$800 for 1TB, $1100 for 2TB, or US$1700 for 3TB) and the Netgear ReadyNAS NV+.

Both of these devices are hot-swappable, and they offer RAID 1 and 5 support, gigabit ethernet, Web-based administration, and software for backing up local drives.

Storage Array Network (SAN)

SAN's have become common place in the SME segment due to need for more performance and data protection. These are designed for the SME customer and offer peace of mind in term of capacity growth (up to 120TB), and performance.

Disk to Disk Backup (D2D) and Virtual Library Systems (VLS)

Thanks to the increased affordability and capacity of Disk systems, SME customers are more than willing to backup and safeguard their data on dedicated disk backup systems.

Reduced backup windows and the need for quick restores are the main drivers to adopt a D2D policy. While the VLS solution is geared towards 2-stage backup. First to disk and then de-staged to tape, if required.

Tape

Tapes that are not accessed don't use energy, they have an incredible low $/GB cost and can be vaulted in a secure area. For all the new technologies in the market, tape is here to stay.

According to Wolfs, "HP is the uncontested tape leader. This prompts us to further develop this technology."

"The latest LTO-4 tape technology has more capacity and performance, has embedded 256-bit encryption and is...Green".

Robotic storage

Robotic storage is used for backups, and for high-capacity archives in imaging, medical, and video industries.

The Advisor recommendsBy following these quick tips, SMEs can prepare for, select, and apply the best new storage technologies for their needs.

Take stock- What are you current storage.

Predictions- Using the current level of capacity estimate your storage needs for the coming year and then three to five years.

Start with the end first, when it comes to storage. Plan ahead for about three years, before you make the necessary hardware purchases.

Plan of Action- After defining the positives and negatives. Address the critical requirements first and then address the next item on the list.

Managing the new system- SMEs should look closely at the management systems that come with storage technologies - ideally look for systems that come bundled with advanced UIs (user interfaces) that make it easy to move and manage data.

Data recovery- Companies often fail to appreciate a sound data backup strategy until their data goes missing.

The potential costs of media failure far exceed the financial outlay for a RAID configuration or for offline backup.

Here are four strategies for achieving adequate storage capacity and the redundancy needed to keep your data safe.

Tape libraries may have from 10 to more than 100,000 slots, and provide terabytes or petabytes of near-line information.

Optical jukeboxes are somewhat smaller solutions, up to 1,000 slots.

Large quantities of individual magnetic tapes, and optical or magneto-optical discs may be stored in robotic tertiary storage devices.

The future of storage

Whatever the future of Storage Media, they will have to meet several requirements.

First and foremost these media will have to store more information in a smaller form factor.

The ease of use of Flash Drives has greatly contributed to its success, as it is used in all kinds of devices alike.

We believe that future data storage media solutions need to offer built-in security, be dependable and become widely accepted as a de-facto standard.

However, the example of the floppy disk sheds some light on a major concern: Backwards compatibility.

Specific to the region customers are very well informed about the need for data storage and protection.

Major industry Associations such as SNIA, hold their yearly conferences in the region.

As the market for better and more cost effective data storage devices grows, manufacturers of external storage devices will keep developing products that meet the demand of the market.

Most external storage manufacturers such as HP work closely with their partners to deliver storage and server solutions to accelerate their business growth while minimizing costs and risks.

Solid State Disks (SSD) are the drives of the future. They host no moving parts, thus eliminating seek time, latency and other electro-mechanical delays.

They offer numerous advantages from faster access, more durability, low power consumption and less heat dissipation.

SSD prices are relatively high, but are expected to drop in a year or two, which is all good news for SME's looking to retain and access valuable data.

Hot tip: online storageSMEs can give employees easy access to shared files from anywhere in the world, by using online storage services.

The downside is that they are slower to use than local disks, which makes them a poor choice for storing huge files.

Yahoo has introduced a new monthly Web hosting service for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), priced at US$11.95 a month which provides unlimited hosted storage capacity and bandwidth.

ElephantDrive.com offers an economical service for businesses (1TB of storage for US$350 a year), including selective or automatic backups, encryption, file sharing, Web browser access, and multiple user accounts.

Carbonite.com's is ideal for individual computers, offering automatic, continuous backup service costs US$50 per year, with unlimited storage.

Amazon's S3 Storage offers similar pricing options.

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