You've no doubt planned and prepared your small business for a great 2013, but unless you protect your company's data, you're courting catastrophe. Don't think for a moment that because your business is small that your data storage, backup and protection needs are, too.
"From a data protection standpoint, smaller businesses face challenges that are similar to those of larger enterprises: the amount, and the value, of their data is growing significantly while their budgets are not," says Kieran Maloney, SMB product marketing manager for Quantum Corporation, a backup and storage manufacturer.
The challenge for small business owners is keeping up with the changes in storage and backup technologies. Here we go over the key trends in storage and data backup that small businesses need to know and should take into account when considering IT upgrades.
4 Small Business Storage and Data Backup Trends
1. Hybrid Storage
It does not often happen, but today small businesses are in a unique position compared to larger enterprises when it comes to adopting new storage technology, notes Lee Johns, VP of product management, Starboard Storage Systems.
"As larger enterprises struggle with overprovisioned and inefficient primary storage, smaller businesses looking to deploy centralized storage to store and protect their valuable data have an opportunity to consolidate on new technology from the start," he said.
There are three basic requirements for storage – cost, capacity and speed of access – and there are different types of storage to meet those requirements.
- Hard disk drives (HDDs): These come in a range of speeds and capacities, with the higher speed and more expensive drives holding less data.
- Solid-state drives (SSDs): These drives use a form of memory technology to store data. SSDs offer far better performance than HDDs, but at a much higher cost.
- Hybrid storage systems: The best way for SMBs to meet price and performance requirements, hybrid storage systems combine HDDs and SSDs. The vast bulk of the data is stored on low-cost hard drives, while smaller portions reside on the SSDs to improve performance.
If, for example, the customer database was critical to company operations, it could be stored on solid state storage while everything else resided on hard drives. The result would be far greater responsiveness for database access and customer queries.
"The hybrid systems are intelligent enough to watch the patterns of data usage in your business and accelerate applications to a small layer of solid state disk when they need more performance," says Johns. "They essentially adapt to your businesses in real time. This takes away management headaches while, at the same time, ensuring that you store your data at rest on lower-cost hard disk drives."
2. Data Deduplication
While hybrid systems get your primary storage needs under control, the bigger issue is data backup. As you conduct your backups, you wind up saving more than one copy of each file, so backup typically takes five to ten times the disk space of primary storage. You can reduce the amount of space required by employing a set of technologies called "data deduplication" or "dedupe" for short.
"The problem for small business and enterprise organizations is the same: much of this data is duplicate data," says Wayne D. Salpietro, director of marketing for Permabit Technology Corporation. "Fortunately there is a solution that addresses both market segments. Reduce the amount of data stored with data deduplication and, as a result, save the major cost of storage expansion."
Take, for example, an email system. The business owner sends out an announcement to all employees, and there are now 75 copies of that announcement taking up space in the email system. A data deduplication system will make sure that it backs up only one copy of that announcement.
"Of the available data optimization technologies, data deduplication is the one with the greatest potential to deliver substantial and recurring impact on the cost and manageability of data growth," says Salpietro. "Although the cost of storage continues to decrease, data growth has expanded faster and, as a result, companies consume more and more storage."
3. Cloud Backup
Even more than larger enterprises, small businesses need to concentrate on what they do best to survive and thrive. One specialist task many small business owners choose to outsource is data backup to an online storage service.
"Having been a small business owner myself, I know that managing IT overall, and data protection specifically, can be overwhelming," says Margaret Dawson, VP of product management of Symform, an online data protection firm. "We all know at least one CEO who takes the company data home with him at night on a USB or external hard drive, thinking he is 'protecting' his assets."
An automatic online backup service -- where you pay a monthly fee to receive data protection services that are more reliable and more secure than you can achieve in-house -- is a better approach. There are dozens of such services available, including Carbonite, Crashplan, Mozy and Zetta.
Symform adds a cooperative twist to the arrangement: instead of paying for the backup, you can contribute unused drive space on your own desktops or servers, which they then use to backup other companies’ data.
"With research consistently showing that one major data-loss event can mean the end of business operations, 2013 is the year to get control of your data and protect those critical files," says Dawson. "To get this done, many businesses will look to IT service providers for a hand with storage and security."
4. Data Backup Appliances
Not everyone feels comfortable relying on cloud backup, and even if they do use a cloud service provider, they may still want to keep a local backup copy. If you are going to keep your backup in-house, one way to simplify it is to use a Purpose-Built Backup Appliance (PBBA). PBBA’s are devices that combine the software and disk space needed for backups.
A PBBA makes it easier for small businesses to simplify the backup process, since the box auto-discovers the items on the network that need backup, and it guides you through the process of establishing backup processes and procedures. A PBBA also incorporates deduplication software to minimize disk space.
"The PBBA market has seen tremendous growth in recent years, as organizations look to appliances in order to optimize their data protection initiatives," says Bob Maeser, CTO and VP of research and discovery, data protection for Quest Software (now part of Dell). "Driven by organizations’ ongoing need to shrink backup windows, to decrease restore and recovery times, and to integrate across data protection applications, this growth will remain strong in 2013 as the adoption of PBBAs continues to rise."
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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