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What does File Storage have to do with my Business?

Does your file storage system constantly fill up? Do you find that specific users blow their storage quota regularly, while othes have acres of unused storage space? Have you ever had a hard disk break down during the working day, so your users have been unable to continue their work until the back-up was restored? Is your file server installed n the office with no external access?

If you can recognise any of these issues, you can save time and money by implementing a storage solution, which is both secure (encryption), available and inexpensive.

Block Storage3Tb
OK, storage is one of the most boring issues in busines IT management. It's where you store your stuff. Period. Nothing wrong with that, of course, it's just that nobody ever thinks about what is going to happen when the space fills up. Or someone else than you needs access to an important client file when you are on holiday, or ill in bed. Or you need that file while away to see that client, but forgot it on your office computer.

A central issue for many is where to put the storage. Apart from the easy, but dangerous, C:drive - that all too many business people choose - there is the D:drive. The smart decision, surely, when you know the D:drive can always be accessed, even if you have to reinstall the operating system. We can just hope the D:drive is a separate disk and not a partition on the only drive in your machine. Anyways, your next hard disk crash will soon tell you which one it is - or was.

Not you, you say? OK, so you are one of the smarter folks who have taken steps to solve this problem and you have gone ahead and bought a file server. Sure, shelling out thousands for a server operating system licence might have seemed a bit steep just for serving files, but those nice folks at Qnap or Synology have such nice looking NAS boxes they say are just right for your near-monopoly operating system, you know, the one the other folks say you need to run your favourite office and email software. And the price was so right. Fine, so you got yourself a Network Accessed Storage device to remain compatible with MS Windows - and it works. Small wonder, as they are all running Linux inside. And if you got a multi-bay device, you can set these little wonders up to run in RAID mode, so your data stays protected even if one of the hard disks crash.

The thing about these NAS boxes is their simplicity. It is their great strength and also their great weakness. Say, you been informed that Joe in Accounts has been bringing his entire DVD library to work to rip them into computer files. You saw he had been using company time and resources in contravention of the personnel policy and let him go. But he had changed his password long ago, as you had told everyone to do, and did not leave it behind. And you forgot the admin password months ago. So now Joe's files are hogging your storage space, but noone can do anything about it. You could wipe the entire server, but are you willing to deal with the uproar in the office when noone can get to their files? Or the confusion, assuming you remembered to tell people to download their own files for a few days until you have deleted the file server and set everyone up again 'sans' the by now infamous Joe's files. This is, of course, a good time for a hard disk crash on someones individual machine.

Hard Disk HeadA few microns above a mirror surface
- at 55mph!

OK, so you didn't forget the admin password and in any case you put in a storage quota (you did, didn't you?) to limit the space hogs in your office from doing just that. But now someone from Research says he needs online access to his entire library and it does not fit into your 100Mb per person policy. So to be pragmatic and decisive you have ordered his team to get a NAS box for themselves. Now you have got two admin passwords to look after, so why not use the same for both boxes? Where do you keep those passwords stored?

In today's business environment you need storage access from the Internet. No matter whether your sales people travel and use their laptops in hotel rooms/cafe's/airports/train stations or you and your staff use your smartphones to access your IT resources - you need easy and secure access to your files to stay ahead in the market. This is where the 'Cloud' thing comes in. It can be a public cloud or a private cloud and you don't even have to call it a cloud if you hate the metafor. There are dozens of different configurations that could make sense for you at a variety of price levels ranging from the super-cheap to the ultra-expensive. Get someone to explain this to you in terms that make sense.

Expandability is a key word for a tool that by definition has finite space limits. How do you increase the storage space you use without interupting your staff doing your business for you? Do you add more hard disks? Well, yes, but that just fills up the drive letters. Can we use modern methods like iSCSI to expand our storage on a live system?

In the end it is not just your production system which needs flexible space, but also your file backup space. The problems and solutions are parallel to those regarding the production system, but the location of the backup site needs to be thought out carefully. Ping the Cloud! Storing files in and/or backing up to a cloud location is cost effective, can be automated, can be encrypted and lets you sleep better at night.

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