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Storage salaries increase

The results for Storage's annual salary survey are in and storage professionals report salary growth. While the increases over last year are modest, they do represent the third straight year that our exclusive survey has shown an increase in storage salaries.

Salaries in 2005 are better than last year and there's optimism that salaries in 2006 will average a modest 3% increase, according to Storage magazine's exclusive storage salary survey.

2005 should go down as a pretty good year for the IT industry as well as storage professionals. Respondents to Storage's survey report that salaries, on average, have increased as they did in 2004 and in 2003 (the first year of Storage's annual survey). And respondents are already anticipating salary increases for next year (see "Survey methodology" and "Storage professional profile").

Percentage of companies with dedicated storage groups, by revenue
For now, it appears the industry can expect steady, albeit modest, salary growth based on the three annual Storage salary surveys to date, in which respondents have consistently reported single-digit increases over the previous year. The more interesting story, however, may be the growing respect for storage that's implicit in the survey. If money equals attention and respect, then storage is getting both.

"With compliance, disaster recovery and business continuity, management can't help but notice," says a storage administrator who manages 100TB of storage for an Ohio financial services firm. "And the budget for storage is increasing. We just bought a new EMC Corp. DMX 3000. You think management didn't notice that chunk of money?" Storage has indeed become important, if for nothing else than the money it requires.

Gaining respect
This growing respect for the storage function is reflected in the continued gradual shift in the number of organizations with dedicated storage groups as more respondents report working on teams dedicated to storage. Almost 41% of respondents work in dedicated storage groups, up slightly from last year's survey. Roughly the same percentage of respondents (41.2%) work within a systems group, which has decreased from previous surveys.

Average salary by type of storage organization
"With SANs and NAS, the industry recognizes that storage needs specialized administration," says Larry Morgese, storage administrator at PNM Resources, a gas and electric utility in Albuquerque, NM. "Last year, our management set up storage as a separate group; before that, we were part of the Unix group."

Still, it takes a sizeable organization to set up a dedicated storage group. The storage administrator from Ohio, for instance, remains a part of the systems group although he acts as a one-man storage group. "We'd have to grow far beyond 100TB before we'd need a dedicated storage group," he notes. Most respondents reporting dedicated storage groups work at organizations with $5.1 billion or more in revenue (see "Percentage of companies with dedicated storage groups, by revenue," above).

Maybe it's the increased respect storage receives when it's a dedicated organizational unit or perhaps larger organizations with more storage are more likely to set up dedicated storage groups. Whatever the reason is, those working in a dedicated storage group earned more ($82,136 on average) than those considered part of the systems group ($78,177) (see "Average salary by type of storage organization," at right). This year, the lowest paid respondents by organizational structure work as part of an application group, where they averaged a little more than $60,000.

Storage skill development
The more prominent profile of the storage function hasn't resulted in any widespread increase in recognition of the value of storage skills (as measured by certifications). The majority of respondents, more than 67%, have no storage certifications.

Average salary by number of vendor certifications held
One likely reason is the lack of a financial benefit attached to achieving certification. Passing a certification test requires significant time and effort, and entails some cost. If storage administrators aren't being rewarded for the extra effort and if the company isn't willing to pick up the tab, why bother?

"I've had EMC training, but I'm not EMC-certified," says PNM Resources' Morgese. "A certification might be nice to have, but it isn't worth the time."

Jim Smith, an operations technician responsible for backup at Bechtel Corp. in Glendale, AZ, finds himself in a similar situation. He has no certifications, although a Veritas certification might be handy as he performs his backup responsibilities for Bechtel's 15TB of storage. "It might make things simpler, but there's no more money in it and management hasn't expressed any interest in paying for it," says Smith. Instead, he's putting his efforts into earning a Master's degree.

Chad Smykay, a storage engineer at Rackspace Managed Hosting in San Antonio, has earned a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Legato Certified NetWorker Administrator (LCNA), but even he doesn't see much benefit in certifications for storage employees. "Maybe if you're going for a new job it might help, but in my current position there is no direct connection," he says.

Storage consolidation and opportunity
The storage team at Sisu Medical Systems, the systems organization for a 14-hospital consortium in Duluth, MN, has a busy year coming up, which translates into opportunities for storage administrators. The group, which includes about a half-dozen system and storage administrators, has been deeply involved in a multiyear server and storage consolidation project, migrating from DAS to a centralized IBM Corp. blade server and a Fibre Channel (FC) SAN with an 8TB IBM DS4000 array. "When we get all the servers and storage consolidated, it will come to over 20TB," says William Sislo, director of technical operations. To stretch the firm's budget, the consolidation project will take several years.

Beginning in 2006, the team will begin rolling out a new centralized Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) capability for radiology imaging. The hospitals currently run PACS on local servers with DAS. The centralized system will use a new IBM array with SATA drives connected to the existing FC network.

To handle this work, the organization is hiring additional system and storage administrators. "We get a lot of interest from entry-level people. It's harder to find qualified system and storage administrators who want to come here," says Sislo. If you don't mind the far northern climate, working at Sisu can be quite nice. "We got raises and bonuses this year," says Sislo, and management has been supportive of storage.

Adds a system engineer who's responsible for storage at a Colorado manufacturer: "Nobody here has any storage certifications. I don't even know what certifications I'd want to get. Anyway, management certainly isn't pressuring us to get any."

Chasing certifications isn't rewarding in the majority of cases. Those with two certifications clearly did best, averaging almost $83,000. However, those with one or three certifications actually did worse on average--$76,786 and $73,500, respectively--than those with no certifications ($77,307) (see "Average salary by number of vendor certifications held," above).

Improving economy
In our 2003 Storage survey, the average annual salary showed a respectable gain over what respondents reported averaging in 2002, a time when the IT industry was suffering from the economic slowdown brought on by the dot-com bust in 2001. But the economy has certainly improved since then. This year, Storage's survey respondents had an average salary of $77,545 vs. the $73,829 reported for 2004, more than a 5% gain. Next year, respondents anticipate salary increases to push the average annual salary to a little more than $80,000, approximately a 3% gain.

Storage Professional Profile
Two hundred and fifty people describing themselves as storage managers or administrators responded to the 2005 Storage salary survey.

Respondents spend almost half their time on storage. Of that:
  • 30% of their time is spent on primary operations
  • 28% of their time is spent on architecture/planning/design
  • 21% of their time is spent on backup
Almost 80% are responsible for one or more of their company's data centers
Almost 90% manage from one to 10 people
Almost 39% manage 10TB to 99TB; nearly 31% manage 100TB or more
More than half are college graduates; 16% have advanced college degrees, while 23% have some college
More than half have six to 15 years of IT experience; more than one-third have 16 years or more of experience
This optimism may be based on anticipated IT spending in 2006. According to a widely published study by Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research Inc., more than half of the 922 IT and business managers they surveyed reported IT spending increases of 4.3% on average for 2006. This increase followed smaller increases in Forrester's previous two annual spending surveys.

In upbeat hiring news, the American Electronics Association (AeA) reported that the technology sector added nearly 190,000 jobs between January 2004 and June 2005, bringing the tech jobs total to 5.72 million. The latest results continue a trend of net increases in tech jobs over the past six-, 12- and 18-month timeframes. Based on this data, the AeA concludes that "the high-tech industry has recovered from the bursting of the tech bubble of 2000 to 2001." While technology manufacturers added a modest number of jobs (21,800)--which was the first employment growth in tech manufacturing since 2000--the big growth came from tech services providers, which added 167,000 net jobs over the same time period for a total of 4.36 million jobs, according to the AeA (see "Storage consolidation and opportunity," previous page).

Rackspace Managed Hosting is typical of tech service providers cited by AeA that are adding jobs. "We're growing. We're healthy. We're getting raises and bonuses every year," says the firm's Smykay. Salaries in the IT services industry average $77,703, while industry bonuses averaged a little more than $3,800 this year.

Survey Methodology

The data used in this report was gathered through an e-mail survey conducted in September 2005. The survey was sent to a sampling of Storage subscribers; there were 250 valid responses. Telephone interviews were conducted with selected respondents and others who manage storage.
Smykay and a few other administrators at Rackspace are managing 150TB of EMC storage and Legato backup, and the group is looking to hire more staff. "We're currently interviewing for storage backup positions, but it's hard to find skilled people. We'd like people with some storage knowledge or experience, but we often end up taking system administrators," he says.

Average salary by industry

2004 to 2005 salary increases by industry

Anticipated 2005 bonus by industry

Top pay
If you were employed in the media/publishing industry by a company located in the Mid-Atlantic region, managed more than 500TB of storage and 21 to 50 people, possessed two storage certifications and worked in a dedicated storage group, this would be your best chance, on average, to pull in one of the biggest storage salaries.

2005 average salary by region

Average salary by storage capacity managed

The best paying industry in this year's salary survey was the media/publishing industry (which averaged $93,143), followed by financial services ($86,348), healthcare/pharmaceuticals ($80,417) and utilities ($80,357). The lowest average salaries were reported in education ($61,692) and construction ($64,400) (see "Average salary by industry," previous page).

The media/publishing industry also doled out the largest raises in terms of a percentage gain (nearly 16%), followed by transportation/travel & hospitality at 12.8%. Raises in other industries didn't get out of the mid single-digits (see "2004 to 2005 salary increases by industry," previous page).

The biggest bonuses, however, are anticipated in the healthcare/pharmaceuticals industry. Respondents in this field expect an average of $8,236 in bonuses; they were followed by respondents in manufacturing ($7,838), financial services ($7,082) and utilities ($6,321). Anticipated bonuses in the media/publishing industry, which generally paid well in this year's survey, averaged only $2,229 vs. an overall average bonus of $5,495; this was up from an average bonus of $4,000 the year before. However, 87 of our 250 respondents received no bonus in 2005 (see "Anticipated 2005 bonus by industry," previous page).

Location, location, location
Where you live also makes a difference. The Mid-Atlantic region led with an average salary of $82,507, followed by the Midwest and Pacific regions ($79,531 and $79,500, respectively). The worst average salary was in the Mountain States ($66,444), although that region may have other charms, especially if you like the great outdoors (see "2005 average salary by region," previous page).

Average salary by number of people managed

2004 to 2005 salary increase by region

Anticipated 2005 bonus by region

You're also better compensated if you manage more storage capacity. Those responsible for managing more than 500TB pulled down $92,542 on average, followed by those who manage 100TB to 500TB ($88,055). The principle of the more terabytes managed the more you receive generally also held true in the case of managing people, where those managing 21 to 50 people averaged $97,606 (see "Average salary by storage capacity managed," previous page and "Average salary by number of people managed," at right).

Similarly, working for larger companies generally paid better. Those working at companies with $5.1 billion to $10 billion in annual revenue did better ($87,059) than respondents working at companies with less than $50 million in revenue, which paid average salaries of $67,310.

Based on Storage's 2005 salary survey, this year can be considered a good one for storage professionals--not like the boom years that preceded the dot-com bust, but a steady, incremental advance over the previous year. With the war against terrorism still being waged, massive resources being diverted to recover from natural disasters, and gas and energy prices soaring, steady, incremental salary growth may be the most anyone should expect.

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