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Accidental IT: Installing Your First SAN

Welcome to Accidental IT, a series of technical how-tos for people whose job descriptions don't necessarily include tech support but who often find themselves doing just that for their co-workers.

Your company has outgrown its disk drive capacity...again. It's time to add yet another drive to your server. Aside from the fact that your server case only has room for one more drive, there are so many things that can go wrong during the upgrade that you're dreading taking the system down. Not only are your applications and data in jeopardy, but since you need to do the upgrade outside regular business hours, you're expecting to lose the entire weekend. Maybe it's finally time to install an external set of drives on its own high-speed network. Yep, we're talking about a SAN (storage area network).

To be sure, the decision to install a SAN is not one to be taken lightly. Despite the inconvenience and pain you experience every time you add a drive to a server, the level of planning and knowledge required to properly configure and install a SAN is much more intense. In addition, the cost of a SAN is on par with the cost of a server. However, the advantages of the SAN architecture can far outweigh both the costs and implementation complexities.

SANs offer operating system independence, easy expansion, and can supply storage to multiple servers simultaneously. You can start with a few drives and add more without taking the servers or the drive system down. The design of most SAN devices allows you to choose which and how many drives are arranged in your RAID configuration, and these systems are designed for high reliability.


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