Survey Finds Excess Storage Capacity, Plans to Add More

Paul Mah

A new survey by the B2B publications under International Data Group has revealed some surprising facts about how companies manage their storage, one of which is how the average company uses only 28 percent of its storage capacity. Paradoxically, these companies plan to increase their storage capacity by 34 percent over the next year.


Conducted with some 1,165 IT managers, the survey segregated organizations with more than 1,000 employees from those with fewer; the latter are classified as SMBs. Some other interesting nuggets of information: SMBs generally spend less than $100,000 on storage, of which 19 percent falls under maintenance and operating costs.


On the cloud front, 23 percent of SMBs ruled out the use of private cloud-based data storage solutions, though the reason is not stated. Overall, 42 percent of the total respondents have no plans at the moment to use either private or public cloud storage technologies. Not surprisingly, smaller companies showed a preference for slightly lower performance, but far cheaper, serial ATA (SATA) hard-disk drives over technologies such as Fibre Channel or serial SCSI (SAS).


So what's my personal take on the various findings highlighted above?


Capacity Increases Outstripping Demand


I'm not going to go into the mathematics of how storage costs have fallen per year; though only someone living under a rock for the past decade would dispute how the cost of storage has steadily and inexorably decreased over the years. This is my rationale why businesses appear to be adding capacity faster than they are consuming it - capacity is so cheap, so why not?


Also, once the initial hardware is purchased and supporting network infrastructure installed, it is even cheaper to stack on additional storage capacity. Consider an SMB-centric NAS hardware such as the Synology DS1010+, for example. Starting from a low base of three hard-disk drives (HDDs), it is trivial to add another two higher-capacity HDDs a year later. Wait another year to invest in an expansion unit and you can add five more HDDs.


Slow Uptake of Cloud Storage


Why are so many businesses still steering clear of cloud storage? I feel that it is merely a reflection that existing tools and architectures are not sufficiently mature (or trusted) at this point in time. This should gradually change as cloud technologies and providers continue to evolve and improve.


One suggestion for an initial foray into cloud storage might entail using it as a remote repository for disaster recovery. All data would be encrypted with the decryption key safely stowed elsewhere. This should be enough to assuage even the most paranoid administrators to start taking advantage of cloud storage. Of course, SMBs need to ensure that it meets their compliance requirements first.


Popularity of SATA


SMBs' preference for SATA-based storage drives is hardly surprisingly. While it is true that the throughput and performance of Fibre Channel and SAS-based infrastructure is head-and-shoulders above that of SATA, few SMBs and even enterprises truly require this level of cutting-edge performance.


Few applications require the absolute highest bandwidth and even then, some planning and mitigation of potential bottlenecks can work things out. Even Google is known to use cheap HDDs for its massive data centers. In addition, the rise of flash storage also is throwing a wrench in the entire equation, allowing SATA-based solid-state drives (SSD) to generate startling performance figures. Finally, storage innovations such as PCI Express-based solid-stage storage devices from Fusion-io are changing the definition of fast disk performance.


Storage remains very much a "bread and butter" part of IT operations in small and mid-sized businesses. I shall be writing more on various aspects of storage in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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