How to expand your data storage capacity

'DATA' written on a wall behind a group of employees sat around a table

As the volume of information generated by the average business continues to grow, is your company grappling with how to store and manage its data effectively? We explain how your firm can avoid data overload

Data storage is a big investment

Data storage can represent a large investment for your business. And, as with any investment, it's important you're able to show a strong return on the expenditure. You need to find a way to store, manage and retrieve data in a way that keeps costs down and productivity up.

It gets harder if your business grows faster than you expected. That expansion can lead to rocketing data storage needs, and a scramble to build the infrastructure to support them.

It's hard to keep data organised, especially when it's shared between a number of people. You have to think about backups, access rights and the threat of cybercrime – not to mention simply naming files and structuring folders so you can find what you need.

A note on cloud storage

In the age of 'Big Data', business information is increasingly held securely on cloud services, thus reducing the need for costly on-site storage.

Despite this, it's still advisable to retain some form of data storage within your premises. You can never have enough backups, after all!

This article therefore focuses solely on data storage in-house.

Huge data storage capacity

Independent research conducted on behalf of Dell and Intel shows that 63% of small businesses in Europe store more than one terabyte (TB) of data on their servers. Around a third of small businesses in the UK hold more than 2TB of data.

To put that into perspective, a terabyte is enough space for about 250,000 four-minute music tracks or an incredible 300,000 copies of 'War and Peace', stored in simple plain text. That's a lot of data your business is generating.

This growth is increasing at a startling rate. Driven by ever-expanding quantities of information stored as emails, videos and photographs, the amount of data we create worldwide is exploding. Against that backdrop, efficient data storage and management is more critical than ever for businesses.

However, most companies already have access to the storage capacity they need. The research found that around one in six small companies across Europe are using less than 25% of their overall server capacity. Most are running some way below capacity.

This strongly suggests that companies have the space to handle the data explosion. What they lack is good organisation and storage management.

Data storage at the heart of your business

In fact, with data at the core of many businesses, managing that data represents one of the biggest challenges faced by firms. For instance, could your company operate effectively without access to its customer database, product information, accounting system or documents?

The secret is to simplify, standardise and automate your data storage infrastructure so you can focus on managing the business rather than the technology.

And don't focus on the wrong things. It's cheap to buy data storage. You can get a hard drive to hold all those copies of 'War and Peace' for around £50. The problem is performance. Storage doesn't end with simply storing more and more data.

Some bits of information will regularly need to be moved or accessed. For example, with some systems you can create a report from old data in seconds. With others, it can take hours to trawl back and find the data you need.

The possibility that your company may be unable to retrieve its old, sensitive or business critical data is a very real one. It takes time and costs money to fix.

More than nine out of ten (93%) of small businesses in Europe have experienced an IT outage that has hit their ability to continue business. Incredibly, 17% claim this happens at least once a week.

You need the right data storage supplier

To stop data retrieval being a headache for your business, you need to work with an IT supplier which understands how you use and access data. By getting to grips with what data you use regularly, what you use sometimes and what's only there 'just in case we ever need it', you can save money.

The key is to set tiers for your data, based on how important it is. Your customer database would probably sit in the top tier. You access it every day and it's absolutely key to doing business. You might store it using the fastest available type of storage and you could decide to mirror it across two different locations to ensure continuity.

Your archived documents, on the other hand, might merit less expensive storage. Sure, you still need to keep them safe and backed up, but archiving them on a secondary server might be enough.

Data storage gives you an edge

Ultimately, companies which prepare for growth by deploying innovative data storage technology will be able to operate more efficiently, giving them an edge over the competition.

And even if you're not pursuing a high-growth strategy, it's important to identify any risks with your existing storage systems. You can do this by approaching a supplier that takes a consultative approach to storage. They'll help you understand the risks and explain what sort of storage system best fits your needs.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so above all it's important to focus on what best suits your business.

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