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DAS may seem less complicated than networked storage, but a SAN makes it far easier to protect data from multiple applications.

Consolidated networked storage isn't just for Global 2000 corporations anymore. Today, more companies with small IT staffs and relatively small budgets are building SANs for their most demanding applications, including data protection.

Until recently, SANs were deployed mostly by large companies that had the storage skills to handle a host of challenges, including hardware incompatibilities and complex SAN settings. However, the SAN landscape has changed significantly within the last few years with the introduction of simpler storage arrays based on the iSCSI protocol, as well as initiatives like Microsoft's Simple SAN that have lowered many of the traditional barriers to deploying and maintaining a SAN.

The primary motivation for building a SAN was to meet a pressing need for performance, scalability or both. But today's new SAN buyers are looking for more than performance and scalability; they're interested in using snapshots of SAN volumes to protect data, sometimes to replace traditional backups. The integration of snapshot technology with many backup applications, along with the Windows operating system, is also spreading such applications as server-free backups and remote application failover--applications once reserved for high-end critical systems--to mainstream IT applications.

The DAS dilemma

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Although disk drives keep getting bigger, the level of performance per gigabyte hasn't kept pace. Storage managers are being asked to protect an ever-expanding amount of data: multimedia files, complex office documents, database-driven applications and a flood of email. The old method of adding bigger and bigger internal disk drives just won't handle these new demands. Even if sufficient space can be added inside a server, and 1TB disks promise just that, performance may not be up to user expectations or the requirements of the application.

This was first published in September 2007

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