7 Small Business Storage Trends in 2011

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It seems like only yesterday that a one gigabyte (GB) hard drive was considered massive. These days, half a terabyte (TB) is the norm, even for small businesses. Here’s a perennial trend you can count on: you will always need more small business storage.

“SMBs are seeing 50-to-70 percent percent annual growth in storage,” said Eric Herzog, vice president of product management and marketing for EMC’s unified storage division. “Simple, easy-to-manage and high-availability storage is increasingly important.” 

While the continued explosion in capacity dominates, there are plenty of other trends that will affect small business IT in 2011. We outline seven of them.

1. Cloud-based Storage

One trend that everyone agrees on is that cloud computing is a good medium for small business storage. Here three small business storage experts – two analysts and one cloud-computing vendor – share their perspective:

“Smaller firms will look at cloud-based services as a way of reducing their IT spending by outsourcing specific IT services,” said Mike Karp of analyst firm Ptak, Noel & Associates. “Good bets include archiving and e-discovery, which is increasingly called for in legal cases.”

“Small businesses will start using cloud-based storage more and more for active data stores as well as archival and disaster recovery,” said Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte, a provider of cloud file server solutions.

“Look for continued adoption of cloud backup as budgets will remain tight and companies will need to do more with less,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group.

2. Cloud Sophistication Grows

What is the cloud? It is a collection of computing resources (scattered across multiple locations) that can be pooled together and managed as one unit. Users typically purchase, via monthly subscription, the amount of disk, processor or memory they need, or else they receive a specific service, such as online backup or archiving of aging data.

More small businesses are using cloud services such as Google Docs and Amazon EC2, but even more sophisticated tools are coming on the market such as those offered by Egnyte and Zetta.

Egnyte provides super-fast speeds for large data uploads. The company currently stores more than five billion files in its cloud network. Egnyte systems process more than one million file operations (uploads/downloads) every 10 hours.

Zetta, on the other hand, acts as an alternative to building expensive offsite storage for data protection purposes. While the big boys may have the funds to build a remote data center and keep an extra copy of all vital files, few SMBs can even consider it.

Zetta makes the cost equation more affordable by outsourcing this function. According to Jeff Bell, director of corporate marketing at Zetta, it would cost about $350,000 to protect 10 terabytes of data offsite as opposed to a little over $100,000 using his company’s service.

“There there are no upfront capital expenses, no backup software licenses, no removable media cost, and no complexity or risk,” said Bell.  

3. Cloud Computing and Virtualization

The cloud is really an extension of virtualization technology. Instead of a single server being virtualized, however, the cloud represents the virtualization of a large group of computing resources or an entire data center. But virtualization is proving hugely popular with small businesses, many of which have little or nothing to do with the cloud.

“We having noticed a steady move to virtualization by SMBs in order to consolidate their servers or virtualize their desktops,” said Herzog.  “That is leading them to deploy storage that is also optimized for virtualization.”

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