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Savings that last
The best way to realize ongoing cost reductions is to shift the focus from technology to process. By thinking in terms of people and process, you'll have a better chance of transforming one-time events into permanent processes that save money. In any organization, there will likely be widely varying views on what cost savings are, how they're measured and to whom the saved costs will be allocated. Spend some time discussing your cost-cutting framework with finance, IT management and business users to gain a consensus. In some cases, sponsorship from the highest levels of the organization will be needed to align the various groups around what's best for your company. This alignment phase will not only help validate your results, but will serve to gain participation from data owners.

You should next look at ways to install processes that make cost-saving opportunities repeatable. For example, have you created a policy for not backing up specific file types? Incorporate that policy into the overall backup process. As noted earlier, shifting business requirements may invalidate the policy, so include a schedule of steps for the storage team to maintain an ongoing dialog with data owners. You should also consider automating some of the newly minted processes to ease the storage team's workload. Perhaps most importantly, use your documented processes to enforce accountability.

What about execution? To avoid a technical mishap,

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either by error or omission, document all storage processes. By creating repeatable procedures and paying particular attention to change and configuration management, reliance on a specific individual can be mitigated. This will eliminate the most common single point of failure in storage: the individual. Reduce errors and lessen the burden on your star performers by capturing knowledge and inserting the right checks and balances to keep operations running smoothly.

Instead of a one-time fix, cost cutting should be viewed as a valuable precursor to long-term cost-reduction initiatives. By investing in the repeatability of processes, connectivity with the business and alignment across different parts of the organization, you can create a cost consciousness that takes your bright ideas and makes them part of the operation. That's a win-win situation: You get more time to focus on storage innovation, and the business gets more for less.

This was first published in March 2006

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