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A Storage Checklist for 2009

This is the time of year for resolutions and lists of goals for the next year. Most writers like to put together lists -- they're easy to write and readers seem to like them. So, to start off the new year, here are some issues and trends that storage administrators and IT managers will need to deal with during the next 12 months.

The economy and tight IT budgets. Unless your company is in an unusual market or offers an unique and highly sought after product or service, you are going to have to deal with the bad economy and its impact on your company and its IT budget. While there will be no reduction in the amount of data your co-workers create, there may not be a lot of money to buy disks and tapes. That is going to force you to be more efficient and economical than in the past, and acting proactively in a number of areas can show that you understand how to help your company weather the storm.

Reclaimed unused storage. The best and easiest way to improve the efficiency and utilization of your company's storage systems is to reclaim storage that isn't being used and isn't likely to be used in the near future. In virtually every data center, there are gigabytes of storage that are allocated to applications that won't need them for many years, if ever. Whether you employ thin provisioning or virtualization or some of the newer tools becoming available, you should aggressively seek out that unused storage and reallocate it to where more storage is really needed. This move could help you defer buying more storage for many months. There is probably no other single tactic that will better deal with a tight IT budget and show your boss that you know how to improve utilization and operations.

Test your disaster recovery plan. There is nothing more important than ensuring that your company can recover and continue operating if a disaster hits. Yet, survey after survey shows that most IT managers aren't confident that their disaster recovery plan is effective -- if they have one in the first place. Make sure that you do in fact have a disaster recovery plan and then test it. And then improve it. It is not a career-enhancing move to have a disaster recovery plan and then discover it doesn't work once that one-in-a-million bad thing happens.

Assess the importance of performance. There is a new wave of storage technologies that offer much better performance, but they come with a price. Solid-state drives, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, faster InfiniBand -- these all can provide much faster response times for a variety of applications and services. In some cases, they are worth the price. Will faster response times let your company process more transactions and win more customers? Unless you have a good handle on how improved performance can affect your company's top and bottom lines, you can't make a good argument that the company should invest in these technologies. This requires a clear understanding of your company's business and revenue streams. It is worth the effort to learn this stuff if you don't know it already.

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