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Top factors to consider when choosing enterprise storage

Johannesburg, 23 Oct 2023
Sanette Wehmeyer, Sales Executive, InfoTech.
Sanette Wehmeyer, Sales Executive, InfoTech.

Choosing enterprise storage is a critical decision for any organisation, as it directly impacts data availability, performance, scalability and overall business operations in the long term.

So says Sanette Wehmeyer, Sales Executive at InfoTech, who notes that many organisations select storage based on only capacity and price. However, there is a great deal more that should be considered, she says.

“When selecting enterprise storage solutions, it's essential to consider several priorities to ensure you meet your organisation's specific requirements. For example, businesses with lots of transactions such as banks, online gaming and cloud service providers need higher performance, lower latency and higher availability than mid-range businesses that aren’t as resource intensive.”

Key considerations

Wehmeyer says key considerations include data requirements, performance and scalability. “Different types of data may require different storage solutions, so it is important to understand the storage requirements for each type of data,” she says. “Likewise, different applications have different performance needs. It is very important to ensure that the storage solution can scale seamlessly as the organisation’s data grows over time. This includes both vertical scaling (adding more capacity to existing systems) and horizontal scaling (adding new storage nodes).”

Reliability, availability and data protection are also crucial considerations, Wehmeyer says. “Enterprise storage solutions should provide high levels of reliability and availability to minimise downtime and data loss. This often involves redundant hardware and data replication. Organisations also need robust data protection mechanisms, including backup, disaster recovery and data encryption, to safeguard your data from loss, theft or corruption,” she says.

Cost-efficiency is a top concern for most organisations. Wehmeyer advises: “Balance performance and capacity requirements with budget constraints. Consider total cost of ownership (TCO), including hardware, software, maintenance and operational costs over time. TCO is impacted by the choice of storage media and architecture, which should be based on performance, capacity and budget considerations. For example, SSDs generally offer better performance but are more expensive than HDDs.”

Management and interoperability are important considerations, says Wehmeyer. “Organisations should ensure that the storage solution offers robust management and monitoring tools for easy administration, troubleshooting and performance optimisation. They should also assess how well the storage solution integrates with the existing IT ecosystem and whether it can adapt to emerging technologies and trends, such as cloud integration, AI/ML and containerisation,” she says.

Assessing the organisation’s needs

Wehmeyer recommends that organisations follow these steps when selecting enterprise storage:

1. Assess your needs:

  • Determine your organisation's specific storage requirements, including data volume, growth rate, access patterns and data types (eg, structured, unstructured).
  • Consider the performance needs of your applications and workloads, such as databases, virtual machines and file sharing.

2. Define your budget:

  • Establish a budget for your storage solution, including initial acquisition costs, ongoing maintenance and operational expenses.
  • Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) over the expected lifespan of the storage system.

3. Evaluate storage technologies:

  • Explore different storage technologies and architectures, such as SAN (storage area network), NAS (network attached storage), object storage and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).
  • Assess whether you need block-level storage (SAN), file-level storage (NAS) or object storage based on your use cases.

4. Consider performance and scalability:

  • Determine the required performance levels for your applications, including IOPS (input/output operations per second), throughput and latency.
  • Evaluate the scalability of the storage solution to accommodate future growth in data and workloads.

5. Reliability and availability:

  • Prioritise data availability and reliability by considering features like redundancy, failover and data replication.
  • Evaluate the vendor's track record for providing reliable storage solutions and support.

6. Data protection and security:

  • Implement robust data protection mechanisms, including backup, disaster recovery and data encryption.
  • Ensure the storage solution meets your organisation's security and compliance requirements.

7. Vendor selection:

  • Research and compare storage vendors based on their reputation, customer reviews and industry certifications.
  • Consider the vendor's history of providing timely updates, support and a roadmap for future developments.

8. Interoperability:

  • Assess how well the storage solution integrates with your existing IT ecosystem, including servers, networking and software applications.
  • Ensure compatibility with your chosen hypervisors, operating systems and management tools.

9. Scalability and future-proofing:

  • Choose a storage solution that can adapt to emerging technologies and trends, such as cloud integration, AI/ML and containerisation.
  • Ensure that the chosen solution can accommodate future expansion and evolving storage needs.

10. Management and monitoring:

  • Evaluate the management and monitoring capabilities of the storage solution, including ease of administration and troubleshooting tools.
  • Consider user-friendly interfaces and automation features.

11. Environmental considerations:

  • Assess power consumption, cooling requirements and the physical footprint of the storage infrastructure to align with your organisation's sustainability goals.

12. Testing and proof of concept:

  • Conduct testing and proof of concept (POC) trials with shortlisted storage solutions to assess their performance and compatibility with your requirements.
  • Involve key stakeholders and IT personnel in the testing process.

13. Scalability and capacity planning:

  • Plan for future capacity needs and growth by considering the scalability options and expansion capabilities of the chosen storage solution.
  • Implement capacity planning processes to monitor and optimise storage usage over time.

14. Service level agreements (SLAs):

  • Define SLAs for storage performance, availability and data recovery and ensure that the selected storage solution can meet these SLAs.

15. Documentation and training:

  • Ensure that comprehensive documentation and training resources are available for your IT staff to effectively manage and maintain the storage solution.

16. Vendor support and maintenance:

  • Evaluate the vendor's support offerings, including service level agreements, response times and support channels.
  • Consider maintenance contracts and warranties.

17. Feedback and references:

  • Seek feedback from other organisations that have implemented similar storage solutions.
  • Request references from the vendor to speak with their existing customers about their experiences.

18. Finalise selection:

  • After thorough evaluation and testing, make a final decision based on your organisation's priorities and requirements.
  • Negotiate pricing and contract terms with the selected vendor.

19. Implementation and migration:

  • Plan the implementation and migration process carefully, including data migration strategies, testing and user training.

20. Monitoring and optimisation:

  • Continuously monitor the performance and health of the storage system and make necessary optimisations and adjustments as your organisation's needs evolve.

“The choice of enterprise storage should align closely with your organisation's goals, applications and IT infrastructure,” Wehmeyer says. “Taking a systematic and well-informed approach will help you select a storage solution that supports your business objectives effectively.”

Failing to align business needs and growth projections with storage solutions can have long-term repercussions for the business. The learn more about the pitfalls of miscalculating storage requirements, see our article on the topic.