IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Rethinking Small Business Storage

Understanding your customer’s business needs is the first place to start when undertaking any storage project. By Paul Ferrill
Reader ROI: 
CHANNEL PROS have more storage options for their SMB customers than ever before.
BROAD KNOWLEDGE of the storage landscape will help in the decision making.
START by understanding your customer’s business needs, existing infrastructure, and what is slowing down worker productivity.
BE PREPARED TO MAKE TRADE-OFFS when considering performance, availability, capacity, and economics.

CHANNEL PROS have more storage options for their small business customers than ever before. Disk, flash, or both? On premises, in the cloud, or both? What about the old archival standby, tape? Clearly, there are many decisions to make when designing storage solutions. Broad knowledge of the storage landscape will help IT solution providers navigate the waters while minimizing risk and maximizing the return on investment for their SMB customers.

The inexorable adoption of flash storage is a big part of that landscape. According to a recent report from Dell’Oro Group, all-flash array systems revenue is forecast to reach almost $12 billion by 2022, driven by a shift away from all-disk and hybrid storage systems.

Meanwhile, IDC expects worldwide solid-state drive (SSD) unit shipments to increase at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 15.1 percent. “The key enabler to SSD adoption, in our opinion, is the affordability of flash across a range of applications,” says Jeff Janukowicz, IDC research vice president for SSD and enabling technologies.

That said, a recent ChannelPro reader survey found that 50 percent of respondents’ SMB customers currently use disk-based storage arrays, while 22.4 percent use all-flash arrays and 27.2 percent use disk/flash hybrid storage. Respondents also said that SMB customers that don’t use flash-based or hybrid arrays cite expense as the primary reason (50 percent), followed by lack of need for the extra performance flash provides (35 percent).

So what solution is right for your customers? This article walks you through some of the issues to consider when selecting storage technologies for specific clients.

Complications

Building storage solutions for small business customers has grown more complicated than ever in the last few years, according to 70 percent of ChannelPro readers. One reason is there are now more choices to grapple with. Though SSD and flash, for example, have been cost prohibitive in the past, falling prices have brought them into the conversation. Hybrid storage offers much better performance than traditional spinning disk but may not be the best fit for every application.

Then there’s Microsoft Windows Server. The latest edition offers a technology called Storage Spaces Direct that utilizes direct-attached disks on multiple servers to provide redundant storage. This technology takes advantage of SSDs to provide a caching tier to speed up performance. Yet there are complexities associated with Microsoft technologies.  

And what about the cloud? Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, the two biggest cloud providers, are solid options for storage, but other companies with lower rates like Backblaze should be contemplated from a pure cost perspective.

How do you put it all into perspective for your SMB customers? Greg Schulz, founder and senior adviser at Server StorageIO, says channel pros need to consider four attributes: performance, availability, capacity, and economics. “Every single application or workload has these four attributes associated with them,” he says. “They also interact, meaning you can lower cost by reducing performance or capacity. In the end, it’s about making trade-offs to put a system in place that best meets your needs.”

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