Small businesses rely on technology to reduce costs and increase productivity. As business demands grow against shrinking budgets and resources, the latest small business technology trends emphasize saving money and improving speed. While that's good for a business’ bottom line, the resulting data from increased speeds can place a burden on older storage infrastructures.
Access to advanced technology makes jobs easier and faster, but workers’ productivity gains from new technology result in more data than many small businesses are accustomed to managing. Business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) planning -- on which many small businesses are just beginning to focus -- compounds the stress, and it also drives demand for greater storage capabilities.
Consequently, procuring and maintaining adequate space for all the new electronic information, not to mention managing, storing and backing up this extra data, is a growing challenge for small businesses.
Small business owners must ask and answer many questions when it comes to storage: How much data do we need to store? Can our current solution withstand our projected business growth? Should we invest in new technologies? Do we have the ability to resume operations quickly after a disaster, such as a fire or flood?
The good news is that there are many cost-effective options to simplify data storage. Many vendors offer straightforward and accessible solutions with a broad range of capabilities. CDW’s server and storage specialists developed the following six tips to help small businesses jumpstart the process of choosing and maintaining the right storage solution for their needs:
1. Speak with a Human Being
Storage is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Small businesses must work closely with vendors to choose the best solution for all current and future storage needs and requirements. Additional benefits of forming solid relationships with vendors include further insight into equipment maintenance and troubleshooting processes, the latest storage trends and capabilities and increased flexibility with pricing.
2. Evaluate Network-Attached Storage (NAS)
Consider replacing file servers with network attached storage (NAS) -- a hard-disk, file-based data storage solution dispersed throughout a network -- to handle the increasing amount of data contained in email and electronic documents. NAS provides employees with quick, centralized access to data on the network and ultimately improves data sharing.
Most network storage devices now come with built-in data backup applications for added protection and convenience. More sophisticated devices include multiple drives that provide more data protection and expansion opportunity. Looking forward, more NAS devices will include built-in wireless connectivity, which simplifies data storage and file sharing one step further by providing direct access to data from any location in the office.
3. Protect Your Critical Business Data
Aside from people, information is the most critical asset for almost every small business. Organizations should first categorize data by function and application, and then rank the business impact of losing data in each category. The greater the impact, the more often you should back up the category.
Upgrading backup storage systems to faster versions reduces the time required to complete a backup cycle, and it may even lead you to choose a continuous back up decision for mission-critical data. Multiple copies of data should be stored off site, at a remote location, far from the primary data center.
4. Consolidate to Save Space and Money
As companies increase in size and complexity, documents and data tend to be shared throughout the organization, increasing storage volumes exponentially. As storage volume increases, businesses should consider de-duplication software and a tiered storage system to reduce space demands and eliminate the need to purchase extra storage prematurely. Consolidation also simplifies enforcement of records management policies and practices, reducing liability exposure.
5. Prolong the Life of Existing Equipment
Heat generated by IT hardware, especially when it is located in small spaces, can reduce the life span of the equipment. Use blanking panels in server racks and air locking grommets in raised-floor panels to minimize cold air loss. Keeping the cold air in place will not only keep the equipment healthier and extend its life span, but it also reduces cooling costs.
6. Enable Remote Access
Small businesses sometimes focus so much on protecting and backing up data, that they don't take steps to ensure their employees can access that data remotely if the office is closed due to a disaster. Remote-access software provides employees with access to networked server or desktop information outside of the office.
These simple tips will help you make informed decisions when purchasing, implementing and maintaining small business storage solutions. Building relationships with vendors, exploring your storage options and properly caring for existing equipment will help you manage the increased amount of data, contain costs and protect your business against lost or damaged information -- now and in the future.
Zachary Ferdinand is a storage specialist at CDW.
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