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What you need to know to set up a SAN -- Part 1

How much does it cost to set up a SAN. I am actually representing my school and doing a report. However, I would like to state that your information on the topic might result in actually setting up a storage area network at my school.


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Well, that would be real nice to know that I helped you and your school with the decision but I can't really give you a specific answer since your question is so general in nature. In order to determine how much a SAN will cost, you need to consider a few things. The cost of the SAN will depend on your needs and what you actually buy. You should first determine whether your needs will be better filled by NAS solution rather than a SAN. If all you need is storage space for the students to store things like assignments and such, or you need to SHARE access to certain files, than a simple NAS appliance may make more sense for you. If you need storage for database or e-mail type applications, than a SAN would probably be better.

If you have already bought all the hardware and just need someone to set everything up, than you could just outsource the job to someone with the proper technical skills.

There is a chapter in the back of my book "Storage Area Networks for Dummies" (available at any bookstore or Amazon.com that covers how to do a "Request for Information" (RFI) with all the pertinent questions you need to ask of any perspective storage vendor.

You need to do some homework up front though (like you need more homework, right?), in order to better understand your needs. Gather this information:

* How many servers need to be connected to the SAN?
* Is dual pathing required for fault tolerance?
* What is the distance between servers and the storage they need access to?
* How much storage do we need?
* What is the current amount of storage we have?
* How much of that storage is currently utilized?
* What is the current backup method?
* Do we need remote access to data from servers in other buildings on campus?
* What is the budget?
* Who is the dedicated resource that has the skills to manage everything once it is in place?
* Can we get by with a cheaper FC-AL- (Fibre Channel arbitrated loop) based solution?
* What RAID types do we need?
* Do we need to take snapshots of data periodically?
* Is there a need for off-site data recovery?
* What operating systems do we need to connect? What are the versions, do they support Fibre Channel?
* What server models do we need to connect?
* Do we need to connect up a mainframe also?

Answering these questions will help you in determining the type of SAN you need whether you should purchase NAS or SAN and, if a SAN what class of equipment would work best.

There are other questions that you need to ask any storage vendor to get a good idea of what they have to offer before you buy. Here is a sample of those questions from chapter 15 of my book:

Developing the RFI

Several common issues are part of the decision-making process in every storage acquisition. These include:

* Product descriptions
* Company viability
* Supported platforms
* Performance
* Connectivity
* Disaster recovery
* Reliability
* Power consumption/floor space requirements
* Product lifecycle
* Guarantees
* Warranties
* Costs
* Service/support
* Training

Click here for Part 2.

This was first published in September 2003

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