How Much Storage Is Enough?

Wayne Rash
I was talking to a representative at Hewlett-Packard about its StorageWorks X1600 NAS appliance. 'It has 12 terabytes,' he told me. 'Do you think that will be enough?' I thought for a minute, mentally adding the capacities of the various devices on the network. It would be enough for the review I was planning.

But then I reflected on just how much storage has grown, and how much the price has dropped. It wasn't that long ago when 12 terabytes of storage was inconceivable. It was not only more than anyone-any company really-needed, but more than you could put into a room. It was more than your computer operating system could address.

But times have changed. In a world when 2-terabyte hard disks cost less than $100, there's little penalty in installing the biggest drives available. You have lots of space and can effectively store all you want for as long as you want. But of course, that's changing. The ability to consume storage has also grown. With multimedia-based applications, with the need to store e-mail forever and the need never to erase a document so you can prove what you said to someone a decade or two ago, storage does get eaten up.

And that's a problem. While adding a 12 terabyte storage server to your network will give you another set of disks on which you can store backups, you still haven't solved the problem of what to do with data that you need to have available, but which you can't just leave on your computer's local disk. Even if the worst disaster that happens to you is a fried disk controller, it can still cost all of the data you have stored.

Making a copy on another machine will help ensure that your data will survive the demise of your individual computers, but it's not much of an improvement. If your storage server is still in the same building, it's also subject to the perils that can befall your desktop computers. And a 2U rackmount server isn't portable enough to evacuate easily if the building catches fire, or starts filling up with water after a pipe breaks.

So is 12 terabytes enough? Or is it perhaps too much? Of course, 12 terabytes of critical corporate data is worth a lot. If it all goes, you could have trouble recovering. So there needs to be an additional solution. If you're really storing enough company data to really need those 12 terabytes, then you're storing enough to need another offsite place to stash it. In short, you need to be backing up your data to the cloud.

So the answer is, 12 terabytes isn't too much storage, but it's enough that you need an offsite storage solution as well. That storage server will work very nicely for high-speed storage and it will give you instant access to information that's backed up. But that same data needs to have a mirror out there in the cloud. Twelve terabytes may not be too much space, but it's too much to lose. If you find yourself buying a big storage solution, you should also look at a companion solution in the cloud.

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