Storing is not boring

John Breeden II

One of the hottest topics right now is storage and archiving hardware. With government agencies forced to comply with regulations regarding how much and what type of correspondence needs to be archived, space is always at a premium. And that doesn't even count the normal day-to-day operations of a typical office.

Government has often relied on network-attached storage devices to get this job done, but they are costly, sometimes incompatible with certain network interfaces or cards, and very complex. Setting one up is actually pretty easy, but if you need more than one NAS to work together, things get tricky.

IP-Based storage area networks have been around for a while, but the simplicity of managing your storage capacity using IP is really just starting to take off in terms of vendor products. Companies are pushing soup-to-nuts products to help alleviate the storage concerns of agencies.

An interesting product in this area that I recently had a chance to demo was the DataFrame 420 IP SAN from MPC Corp. of Nampa, Idaho. It seemed to deliver on its promise of nearly unlimited expandability with an easy management interface, though more rigorous lab testing will be needed to confirm that.

But the product does show that even in the seemingly static world of storage, there are many innovations taking place'a good thing, because the need to store data is only going to grow.

Network storage applications may have a surprising competitor on the horizon as personal storage drives increase in capacity. The GCN Lab is reviewing eight expansion drives for the Sept. 12 issue with capacities of around 250G. These drives use either USB 2.0 or FireWire to plug into a desktop system.

Lots of government agencies are excited about these new large-capacity drives, not only because they make system backup easy'in some cases, a single button push on the drive backs up an entire system'but they also can secure data.

At the end of the day, the drive can be unplugged from a desktop and moved into a safe or secure room and locked up. It's then under lock and key and not attached to any system; that's about as secure as you can get. Some of the drives even come with biometric fingerprint readers, so even if someone steals the drive, he or she would not be able to get any data from it.

It's doubtful that these personal drives will ever really kill the NAS and SAN markets. Even though some of them are reaching into the terabyte range, a lot of agencies prefer to manage storage at the network level and not give so much power and responsibility to the users. After all, hard drives have been known to get lost at some agencies. Even if the data on the drive is secure and encrypted, losing equipment you have paid for is no fun.

What these personal drives may do, however, is to take some of the load off of the storage networks, at least at agencies willing to give that responsibility to users. If users can put all their work files onto a personal drive, then that means there will be fewer files piling up on the network.

And the integrated hard drives for most PCs these days'even for inexpensive desktops'are quite large. All this helps take pressure off of the back-end storage networks, though in reality, the bit of pressure this releases is probably quite small compared with the overall storage need.

Still, like a newborn puppy or a complex government network, to be happy and healthy, you need room to grow.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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