Devising a Smarter Tiered-Storage Strategy

Topics: Data Archive

Separating your business data into data storage tiers can save you money, especially for the long-term archival of data. Customize your data protection strategy to optimize the strengths of disk, tape and cloud.

There are the broad-base levels, the smaller mid-levels and then the smallest top levels, stacked one on top of the other, creating a harmonious, complete picture.

We're talking, of course, about urban office buildings, smartly designed to work in harmony with their environment. What? You thought we were talking about a tiered data storage system?

Certainly, there are similarities. Read any three articles about tiered storage and you'll hear three times about how you need a broad tape archive level for economical long-term needs, an in-house disk or cloud backup level for timely access to occasionally needed files, and smaller (but pricey) solid state drives or RAID arrays for fast access to critical, often-used files. And that's just one example of a tiered storage mini-skyscraper.

While these articles point out that bigger organizations might need a few extra tiers focused on different types of data storage and access needs, they don't offer much in the way of customization. But anyone who's seen those history shows on cable knows that towers have been built in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Tiered storage is just as customizable. You simply need to ask the right questions:

Question #1: How dynamic is our business?

What to consider: Are you experiencing speedy growth? Are Big Data needs pushing you to add more storage? Is a merger or acquisition in your short-term future? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's essential to keep your tiered system agile. Rather than investing in big hardware, virtual solutions may be an option. You might, for example, deploy a virtual tape library offsite, creating what will appear to your system as a tape library. However, these systems typically employ disk arrays that require constant power and so cost more to operate than actual offsite tape storage. Consider an offsite tape provider that offers online tape-inventory access.

Question #2: Will we need to work with multiple vendors?

What to consider: If you see your tiered system rapidly expanding, you may eventually need additional storage partners. Keep your options open by selecting tiered storage solutions that work with a wide range of vendors.

Question #3: How much can we automate our tiering process?

What to consider: The more storage rules you can implement with your tiered solution, the fewer you'll need to manually execute. Move older records to tape on a schedule, and migrate daily reports from solid-state storage to disk after a few weeks. Automating these changes means you'll be moving data more efficiently and less expensively. As you create a tiered solution, look for ways to automate the entire workflow and tailor that automation to your company's needs.

Question #4: How can we best contain costs?

What to consider: Try to create efficiencies in your tiered solution. Possibilities include creating automated processes that put as much data as possible into lower-priced storage tiers, saving as little as possible in pricier tiers, and using deduplication to reduce your daily upload volume.

Question #5: Do we even need to store so much?

What to consider: Talk to department heads about shrinking overall storage volume. IBM estimates that the average large organization can save up to $3 million by reclaiming 11 percent of its storage space for reuse. IBM also estimates that companies can save up to $1.9 million each year by storing 12 percent less data in tier 1 storage.

When architects build those tiered towers, they take their time—you should, too. Take some time to ask and answer questions about your tiered storage system before implementation. The result should be a system that reflects your organization's data storage needs.

Do you have questions about data management? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain's Data Management team. You'll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.