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Selling storage management

Get buy-in from stakeholders to make storage management a success.


Selling storage management
Rick Cook

The trickiest part of successful storage management is not the technology, it's selling storage management to management and users.

Successful storage management implies recognizing resource limits and living within them. This ranges from storage quotas for users and departments to limiting who can access particular storage volumes. In other words, storage management has an impact that extends to the entire organization. Making an enterprise-wide policy work requires getting buy-in from all the affected groups and that usually involves some old-fashioned selling.

Don't Try To Develop Storage Management In An IT Vacuum
Storage management may be a technical issue, but it is done in support of enterprise wide-goals. A successful storage management policy is based on answers to questions like "how many transactions should we support at once?" and "what is an acceptable response time?" While you can develop answers to many of those questions from internal resources, such as logs and system performance reports, it's generally a very bad idea to rely on those alone.

Ideally, a storage management policy is developed in consultation with managers, users and other affected groups. Not only will such consultations help to develop a storage management policy more in line with the organizations goals and needs, they also help to get buy-in for the policies which are ultimately developed.

Developing The Policy Is Only Half The Battle
Once you have a storage management policy, you're only half done. The second half is to sell the policy to the rest of the enterprise. Since storage administrators are usually not known for their political skills, this can be harder than developing the policy in the first place.

Get Management Support
If management isn't visibly behind a storage management policy it is hard to sell to other groups. Get management buy-in early and make sure they let everyone else know they are supporting it.

One important technique for getting management approval is to present the cost advantages of the new policy in simple, specific terms, such as a chart showing the cost of storage if the policy is not implemented versus the cost of storage under the new policy.

Performance improvements are another important aspect to stress to management. Rather than talking about performance in MIS metrics, such as reduced latency and transactions per second, it's better to express the improvements in business-related terms, such as more customers served per hour or faster on-screen response.

Don't Dictate
As NTP Software puts it in its white paper on developing a storage management policy:

"Blunt statements directing users will not endear them to you or your management, nor will they get you to your objective with the least resistance. Dictatorial massages are not the right approach because of the way people perceive them." This is especially true when the storage management policy puts new limits on users, such as a ceiling on how much storage they can use, or imposes new costs, such as charging back some storage costs to departments.

Explain The "Why"
People are usually more cooperative if they know why they are being asked to do something. In setting out storage policy it helps to tell people specifically why the various limits were chosen.

Stress The Benefits To Them
A storage management policy may improves your statistics and bring storage costs under control, but that doesn't matter much to the users. Talk about the benefits of the new policy to them. Typically those benefits include more reliable systems, less time waiting for critical applications to run and an assured level of service -- all things that will help them get their jobs done more easier and more effectively.

Feed Back And Modify
It's rare that you can get a storage management policy completely right on the first try. Expect to make adjustments as you go and include a mechanism for making them.

Adjustments start with feedback and effective feedback starts with good listening and appropriate response. Accept complaints and comments and look on them as an opportunity to improve service. Ask for feedback and acknowledge it appropriately.

Even without feedback you should review your storage management policy regularly by generating reports and checking performance. Is the system meeting the goals set in the storage management policy? Are the patterns of use deviating significantly from the assumptions of the storage policy? What changes can you make to improve?

NTP Software has a white paper titled "Do You Need A Storage Management Policy?" available on its Web site. Among other things, the paper discusses how to sell a storage policy to users and management.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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