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IT Costs Up? Ten Ways to Slim Your Storage Spend

Doug Bonderud| December 18 2015

| IT insights

A few weeks from now a good number of people will try to stick to their New Year's resolution to shed some weight gained over the holidays. In parallel, waistlines may not be the only thing slimming down. Your data storage spend may as well.

As cloud providers "race to zero" and alternatives such as SSD gain traction, the price of data storage is dropping. Yet many companies still find IT costs climb as they're pressured to store more information — the big data market is on track for 23 percent CAGR through 2019, according to Research and Markets — while ensuring other departments have immediate access to that data whenever, wherever.

The result? Increased C-suite expectations paired with budgets that don't match up. Here are 10 tips for controlling storage costs without sacrificing access or performance.

1) Create in the Cloud

Controlling IT costs starts with an evaluation of existing processes: Which ones need to stay on in-house servers and which can be moved to a public or hybrid cloud? One great candidate for the cloud is application development, since the storage and server resources required to dev/test in-house not only reduce network performance as a whole, but result in significant costs if testing doesn't go as planned. Rather than building (and paying for) an internal test environment, consider building apps in the cloud and then moving them back to local stacks once they're ready for deployment.

2) Match Management

It's often possible to reduce IT spend by migrating licensed applications to newer and more efficient servers. If storage appliances aren't upgraded at the same time, however, the result can be a management mismatch: Servers can handle the CPU demands of cutting-edge apps, but storage solutions can't provide data fast enough. Bottom line? Matching storage and server management is essential to level out your costs.

3) Send Off Old Storage

It many seem counterintuitive to purchase new storage solutions when existing decks are still up and running, but in some cases you'll save more by spending now than trying to squeeze every last cycle out of legacy hardware. Newer models typically offer more space combined with lower operating costs, but this transfer method only works if your data is new enough to make the transition. If file types and storage architectures are incompatible with newer hardware, this is another opportunity to leverage the cloud using an integrated storage appliance.

4) Don't Get Sentimental

Not all of your apps are getting used, and it's time to let them go. Some simply don't perform as intended and others have been replaced by newer, better versions. As a result, it's worth doing an "app purge" every six months or so. Take a hard look at the software stored on your system and track down any obsolete or seldom-used apps. Make sure they're not tied to critical functions and then "retire" them using long-term, low-cost storage.

5) Consider Colo

CBRE Group estimates the average 5-megawatt data center costs $270.1 million to operate over 10 years — a big chunk of change for any enterprise, let alone a small or midsize business. Part of that cost comes from building and server maintenance, while rising power prices also have an impact on storage viability. Although it is possible to reduce this cost using tax breaks and careful planning, another option is colocation. You bring the storage hardware but don't have to pay for facility management or power. In effect, the physical costs are handled without your supervision, freeing you up to focus on streamlining storage itself.

6) Gone in a Flash

Flash and SSD are popular buzzwords, and that's no surprise when they perform better than traditional hard drives and are less likely to break. According to Tech Times, however, the cost of SSDs still puts a full switchover out of reach for many companies. And yet it is cost-effective to start trending this direction, especially for critical or high-demand apps. Spending a little on SSD or flash can have big returns and improve the long-term prospects of your storage environment.

7) Live and on Tape

A few years ago, tech pundits predicted the death of magnetic tape; surely with advanced storage arrays, public clouds and flash devices, any available tape would simply disappear. Enterprise Storage Forum suggests otherwise; demand for tape is higher than ever. Why? Because it offers long-term, high-volume and low-cost storage for data that your company doesn't need right now but may need five or 10 years down the road.

8) Opt for Open Source

Want to control IT costs for storage? Consider open source. A number of high-profile, well-supported projects — OpenStack, for instance — provide open-source solutions to help improve your storage environment without forcing you to pay licensing costs. Better still, you can customize this code to your liking, rather than getting pigeonholed by providers.

9) Outsource Recovery

Disaster-recovery solutions are one of the biggest money sinks in any organization. They're necessary, of course, but that doesn't make them cheap. By opting for DR-as-a-Service (DRaaS), you can leverage economies of scale to bring down costs and free up local storage for mission-critical apps and data analytics.

10) Circular Backup

One last tip for controlling storage and IT budgets: Make a local backup of your offsite backup. Sounds backwards, but by keeping a copy onsite, you'll be able to more quickly recover after a disaster so you're not left high and dry if your DR provider experiences an outage. And by narrowing your focus to the most recent iteration of your backup, you can minimize its footprint while protecting your interests.

Full access, high-performance storage is essential. And expensive. Consider these 10 tips to help lower IT costs without sacrificing performance.

Topics: IT insights

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