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Special Supplement: Small office SANs

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Storage August 2006 Special Supplement

Technical skills
SMBs know how to set up DAS as shared network drives and folders in Windows. They also know how to set up an Ethernet network. But creating LUNs on an FC SAN or setting up different RAID levels requires technical skills many SMB companies don't have. "At the least, these companies need software that automatically sets up RAID groups and abstracts LUNs to the familiar drive letters," says Scott Robinson, chief technology officer at Datalink Corp., a Chanhassan, MN-based storage integrator that also doesn't handle small business projects.

That was the case with Freeman Companies, a Dallas trade-show exhibition producer. "We're a small IT shop and had $14,000 to set up shared storage," says Lance Ballew, information services manager.

Having outgrown its 600GB Dell Inc. DAS, Freeman Companies was forced to try something new. After looking at the low-end offerings of Dell and HP, the company turned to Nimbus Data Systems Inc. in San Francisco for two 1.3TB iSCSI boxes.

"I wasn't that familiar with this kind of storage. I had always dealt with DAS. Nimbus Data talked us through it," says Ballew. The Nimbus support team set up a remote WebEx session and even logged on to walk Ballew through the setup. RAID 5 turned out to be simple. "You tell the software how much you want to format for RAID 5 and it just does it," says Ballew.

To save money, Freeman Companies

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used Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for replication. "Because we got VSS with Windows Server, we didn't have to buy replication from a storage vendor," says Ballew. However, the firm's old Microsoft Server 2000 cluster didn't work with some of the newer technology because of the way Windows Server looked at the adapter cards. "Nimbus talked me through the problem and then kept calling me back to check that each step worked correctly," says Ballew.

This was first published in August 2006

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