Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Data you care about - A Storage Story

What are valid strategies for storage in a "post cloud" era?

Well, all questions are best answered with a question, or a few questions:

  1. Do you have server based applications that use a local database?
  2. Do you use desktop applications (Quickbooks, MS Office, CAD)?
  3. Do you receive faxes and/or scan documents that need to be forwarded to other users?
  4. Do you have a corporate data retention policy?
A few assumptive statements

  • If you don't have a back-up of your data (a copy of your files) then you don't care about your data
  • If the back-up off your data (the copy of your files) is on your site then you don't care much about your data
  • your pc - laptop's hardrive will fail before you quit

Here is what I recommend for local storage and for backups
If you have a server based application that needs a databasae then you are responsible for the first copy of that data base (the first copy after the running production copy).  Let's call this the availability copy because the function of the first database copy is to give you a database that you may switch to in the event that the running production database stops working.  For business protection and "risk management" you should have  a second copy of your database that does not reside within your site.  If you are running your own server based application this second copy is usually not available for you to switch into production because of: the expense associated with providing a high speed connection from your server based application to the remote copy of your database; or providing a second instance of your server based application at the location that the "risk management copy" of your resides.  So, you have a running production copy of your database, an availability copy of your database, and a risk management copy of your database.  If you do not have those three copies then you do not care about your database and the application that uses that data.
Note: Many firms are looking to move their complex server based applications and database to a Software as  a Service (SaaS) vendor thus outsourcing the responsibility of caring about servers, databases, and the database copies.  When you seek a SaaS provider ensure that they accept responsibility for at least the three database instances you require to care about your data. Some of the larger SaaS providers have invested in their infrastructure to the level that all copies of your data may be rapidly switched to when there is a problem with your production data.  "Cloud" is another term used to describe a SaaS arrangement, as in move that application to the Cloud.

Data for Desktop applications like Microsoft Word, AutoCad, and Quickbooks usually resides in two places.    We have local storage on our hard drives within our PCs and Laptops.  For the most part this storage is available just to us, the user of the PC/Laptop.  To make that data (those files) available to others in the organization we need to have some "shared" local storage.   Today, shared local storage can be on a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) at a price point of a couple hundred dollars per terabyte of storage (1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes = 1,048,576 megabytes).  Shared local storage may be provided on a server with resultant higher storage costs (you have to pay for the server, the server operating system, and the server storage).  Ok, we still haven't shown that we care about this data because, the local storage and the shared local storage do not represent the availability copy of your data.  Often some files are duplicated in both the local storage and shared local storage disks but you cannot count on the local storage version being maintained so, let's call local storage temporary storage.  They give us large hard drives on our desktops and laptops so we have huge temporary storage available to each user but, the organization can only depend upon shared local storage as the true production repository of data (files).  Now we need to produce our on-site availability copy and our off site risk management copy.  Often to find an effective way of producing an availability copy and a risk management copy organizations are forced back into server managed storage scenarios to gain access to the tools that effectively manage data copies.
Note: Cloud for desktop application data.  There are cloud solutions for desktop data.  Usually organizations first move email to the cloud as for most email is really a desktop application.  You should still require the email SaaS (cloud) provider to have at least a production copy of your email along with an availability copy and a risk management copy.  Most of the tier-one email SaaS providers also provide a shared storage option often called "your G drive in the sky" (sort of a cloud reference).  This Cloud based shared storage should allow you to enable access by multiple users and should still provide and availability copy and a risk management copy of your data (files).  The hidden point here is that you do not have to move all of your desktop applications to a SaaS version (sometimes the desktop version is the most feature rich) but, if you move your data to the cloud you offload the responsibility of caring for your data and receive data storage at a price point that you cannot achieve.

Faxes and Scanned documents are usually needed for an instant and then discarded.  Some firms save their scanned documents to a shared local storage repository.  If you care about those saved scans then apply the availability copy and risk management copy schema.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google Voice

Google Voice
A good one stop web site for an introduction to Google Voice, the Google Voice overview page to see video explanations of the key features or take a look at the Help Center for details instructions.