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But technology is only half the story. Policies and procedures are the other half of the operational management process and they can't be ignored. Some areas where you should ensure that standards are followed include:
Provisioning. A frequent complaint from storage administrators is that when customers want storage, yesterday is considered too late. But the more hurriedly you try to provision, the more likely a mistake will be made. Responding in "hurry up" mode will also make it more likely that storage gets provisioned inconsistently. A provisioning policy with different levels of severity classified by the required purpose can avoid missteps. Resist the temptation to meet needs on an ASAP basis, but avoid the other extreme of binding the process with red tape.
Publish your operational practices. It's important to make the added effort to publish your guidelines. If more people are aware of your guidelines, you'll have a better chance of ensuring conformity and minimizing deviations. But be realistic. If your existing processes have a turnaround time that doesn't meet the norms of your IT department, it may be time for a reality check. However, it's imperative that all members of the storage team, as well as customers, subscribe to your discipline. You may have to sell them on the benefits to make them advocates of your methodology.
Know your environment. You'll never truly know what shape your environment
Change control. Perhaps the single greatest threat to effectively managing a storage operation is allowing changes to the environment to occur without proper change control mechanisms in place. A small change in one area can have profound effects on another operation, and seemingly inconsequential changes can accumulate with devastating--and unexpected--effects. If documented, most changes can be rolled back, if necessary.
At the end of the day, you probably won't get a medal for creating and running a streamlined operation. But managing a more consistent and standardized environment will give your blood pressure a break.
This was first published in June 2007