Canadian storage managers pipe up

Managing remote offices, especially if they are located in the U.S. and governed by regulations not applicable in Canada, is causing headaches for Canadian storage pros.

TORONTO -- Storage managers in Canada are dealing with many of the same problems as their counterparts in the U.S., but two of the top issues keeping them up at night are managing remote offices and understanding the compliance requirements of branches based in the U.S.

During a panel discussion at Storage Decisions in Toronto this week, Nicolas Laine, storage technical specialist at the Royal Bank of Canada, said that while centralizing data was a great idea for managing remote offices, the distances in Canada and the lack of fiber infrastructure to remote areas can make centralization hard. "We need more help from the telco people to get it done," he said.

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Disaster recovery planning and standardization is also a concern for companies operating in Canada. "When you're an office in Saskatoon [and you need more storage] you will buy from whatever small little company you can get it from, no matter what corporate says … That might be 1 terabyte USB drives from Best Buy, and we have no control over that," Laine said.

Another thorny topic up here is compliance. The Canadian regulatory system around data storage is different from the U.S., which complicates data management for companies operating in both countries. "We have to figure out both landscapes," Laine noted.

Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada is in the same boat as it integrates 40 remote offices in the U.S., picked up with the acquisition of Richmond., Va.-based Genworth Financial Inc., last year. "The compliance issues down there are a whole 'nother ball game," said David Pezzack, systems and storage management analyst with Sun Life. "Those offices are all orphans."

One user in the audience said he was struggling to get a clear understanding of what his headquarters in the U.S. is doing around compliance in order to make policy decisions for the offices in Canada. "It's a total mess … I don't think they have any idea what they are doing, and the instructions change every week," he said, preferring to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic.

Like their U.S. counterparts, most storage managers in Canada cite backup and managing data growth as their top priorities.

Brian Greenberg, director of data protection services at a large U.S. financial institution, said technologies, such as data deduplication and WAFS are emerging to help manage bandwidth-constrained remote offices and rapidly growing volumes of data. "Dedupe [deduplication] is the Holy Grail for reducing backup costs … but if you have 1 petabyte of data in 100 terabytes of space and you get a double disk failure, it's still very risky … it's not fully baked yet," he said.

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