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User profile: Small hospital storage manager has big time issues

As Systems Support Specialist for the Division of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology at the Health Sciences Center in Winnipeg, Canada Robert Hanan has his hands full. Hanan is the only person supporting 380 Physicians, Scientists, Technologists, Technicians and Support Staff. While his operation may not be hundreds of terabytes -- he still has the problems many large managers are struggling with -- backup, migration and being a one-man band.

Who do you work for now?
I am the LAN Administrator for the Division of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre. The Health Sciences Centre is the largest health care referral, teaching and research Centre, serving residents of Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario and Nunavut. Located on 32 acres of land in central Winnipeg, the Health Sciences Centre is one of the largest facilities of its kind in Canada and a major referral center for complex health problems requiring expert consultation and sophisticated investigation and management. Designated as the Trauma Centre for Manitoba, the Health Sciences Centre is also the place for transplants and for most hospital-based pediatric care in the Province. How did you get your start in storage/IT? What is your technical background?
I have been working in the Storage/IT field since 1985. I was a courier driver delivering computers (and the car-less Service Manager) for a major retail outlet in Winnipeg, MB. One day, I suggested a couple of solutions to the manager for some tough systems problems he was having. A couple of months later (and many deliveries) the owner and offered a job in the service department setting up IBM XTs and installing Novell. My first computer contact was a programming course: "FORTRAN with WATFOR and WATFIV" at the University of Winnipeg in the summer of 1973 running batch jobs programmed on punch cards. Do you choose products, recommend, or no involvement in this process?
I recommend and choose server, storage and desktop hardware and software for the Lab Division. "Fiscal responsibility", as dictated by the Hospital executive, as we are a publicly funded non-profit hospital, means that we cannot replace a computer until it self-destructs and is irrepairable (hence the 486s and Pentiums still in use). What's a typical day for you look like?
A typical day consists of morning network administration, including reading those annoying weekly e-newsletters. The rest of the day is spent responding to users' requests via the phone (I have a Companion cordless phone), in my office, or where they bump into me in the hallways and labs. I also make room to work on new projects, computers coming in and researching hardware and software. Are you the only person that manages your storage? How are the responsibilities divvied up?
I am the only person managing the network -- period. I do analysis, administration, helpdesk, desktop support, hand-holding, fire-fighting, fire stoking. They are divvied up 24x7x365. What advice would you give to new storage professional?
Know your stuff. I don't see any value in having credentials if you don't know your stuff: where to find it and what to do with it.

Certification is not worth it. Learn how to find out where to find the answers to solve everyday problems -- knowing how to research problem solutions is the key. And keep it simple.

If there is one thing you would change about the storage industry, what would it be?
More respect for the little guy: those small businesses that require less than 50GB of storage. I know that there is not a whole lot of money in individual companies. I don't see much information in "storage" and network magazines to help the small business analyst or owner solve their business problems. What do you see as your greatest storage challenge in the coming years?
Our greatest storage challenge over the next few years is going to be to continue expanding the Lab Division's network storage capacity with no budget. BONUS question: What are some of your hobbies away from the data center?
Away from the data center, I enjoy spending time with my wife and raising our children and granddaughter, and camping, singing and travelling. As a past President of the Fibromyalgia Support Group of Winnipeg I spend time talking about invisible disabilities and self-help groups. I am also enjoying putting together a family history, doing some genealogy across Western Canada. What projects are you currently working on and what kind of daily challenges does it present?
The biggest project I am currently working on is getting the divisional data migrated from the old 27GB RAID to the NAS units. The biggest challenge is not having any server downtime, and trying to decrease the backup window. What does your environment look like?
I support a network with more than 350 users working on 194 computers ranging from Seanix 486/100 running Win95 to iP4/2.4Ghz running Win2k. The computers are spread out over the 32 acre campus in 15 labs, plus I support users at two off-campus third-party labs. We support these users on 2 NT4 File/Print Servers: a P100/96MB RAM NT4 BDC and a Seanix P133/128MB RAM NT4 PDC/Backup Server with 27GB SCSI RAID DAD unit for storage.

This summer I migrated our data to a pair of 120GB Snap Appliance 1100 NAS units with Server-to-Server synchronization for DR. I am hoping to upgrade my HP 24GB DDS3 SCSI tape unit to a new HP DDS5 unit to support the increase in disk space later this year, and possibly a new Server next year.

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