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Getting the most out of what you already have isn't just smart, it might be the only way to keep your storage shop alive and well.

Data storage efficiency is often an elusive target for storage managers, but with declining budgets and unchecked capacity demands, getting the most out of your storage resources is more important than ever. Storage vendors say they feel your pain and can help you store more data for less cost than ever before.

But storage managers should press those vendors on the actual savings they'll see with their own data and environments. It's also important to understand that some space-saving technologies may require new monitoring tools or additional storage controllers to ensure they don't crash important applications. In addition, a new technology might not always be the answer; non-technical methods, such as pushing back on users' demands, may do as much to help keep storage budgets under control (see "Just say 'No,'" below).

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Just say 'No'

Need to cut your storage requirements but don't have the time or money for fancy new hardware, software or consultants? Then try pressing your users on whether they still need all the disk space, copies or performance they insisted on when times were good, said Roger Cox, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"When money was no problem, people overprovisioned their storage," he said. If a user said an application needed half a terabyte, the storage administrator would provision a full terabyte so they wouldn't have to go through the painful process of expanding the volume if the app actually needed more. "Go back, revisit your provisioning policies" and cut back on some of that overprovisioning, Cox said.

Consider asking users to reduce the number of copies they require, or see if they can live with somewhat slower performance by crowding more data onto each drive. And if users insist they can't give anything up? Try charging them for excess copies, overprovisioning or gold-plated performance. With their own budgets strapped, that should quickly help impose some self-discipline, Cox suggested.

The amount of storage under management is growing approximately 40% per year, according to a March 2009 survey of 400 U.S. IT professionals commissioned by Symantec Corp. However, the survey indicated that storage budgets will grow only 15% to 20% in the next year, and 20% to 24% over the next two years. If Symantec's survey paints a not-so-pretty picture of the coming years, Storage magazine's own Purchasing Intentions survey indicates that the pressure is on right now. In that survey, also conducted in March, respondents said they'll add an average of 43 TB of new disk capacity this year, despite seeing their storage budgets dip by 1.9% vs. last year. This crunch is leading many organizations to consider using newer technologies, many made possible by the growing use of storage virtualization, to keep more data available while spending less money.

This was first published in September 2009

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