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Compounding the problem
This problem can be exacerbated when firms overuse data protection and availability solutions. Replication and point-in-time copies multiply storage demand by a factor of two or three, driving more volumes of storage into the data center.

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Defining cost savings
As you define cost savings, don't fall into the trap of focusing only on hard dollars. Here are some potential ways of looking at cost reductions:
  • Increases in storage utilization through reduced consumption or consolidated requirements can yield capacity at no cost. Depending on your capacity requirements, this is usually a deferred cost and won't be treated as hard dollars.
  • By improving service levels to business units, a company can better respond to market conditions, reducing the cost of doing business.
  • A proven disaster recovery (DR) plan can mitigate the potential for significant damage--and costs--to day-to-day business. While the cost savings that result from a DR plan are hard to quantify, a DR plan goes a long way toward aligning the needs of the business to the infrastructure that supports them.
  • Tiering storage lets data be moved to lower cost-per-unit tiers of service.
  • Increasing storage staff productivity through automation and process efficiencies can help control payroll costs.

The cost issue may be amplified by the way in which storage was incorporated into the infrastructure. Companies typically allocated storage on a project-by-project basis. The result was a mishmash of underutilized infrastructure supporting a bloated application base.

One company's immediate response to this problem was to reduce the amount of data going to tape media. It's a simple proposition: Reduce the volume of data being backed up and save money on tape. The company was able to reduce the data volume of its weekly backup cycle by approximately 30%, which effectively trimmed media usage and extended the life of the backup environment by reducing its load and making capacity available for future requirements. But was this the right solution?

Although apparently successful, this effort didn't address the policy and behavior modifications that have lasting benefits. The waste of protecting application system and temp files, MP3s and the like is eliminated. But sometime in the future, a new application will be installed, new clients will come online and a new crop of non-critical file types will appear. There's a good chance that these files won't be among the file types identified in the original effort, so wasteful backups will occur. It's also possible that the exclusions originally identified will lose their validity as the application, infrastructure or business environment changes.

This was first published in March 2006

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