Tag Archive | "Data Storage"

Your server or servers are running out of storage space! What should you do?

So let’s say you’ve decided to take your business seriously and spend the money needed for a quality server. You may be using a file server to share files and printers or you may use it to run Microsoft Exchange for shared calendars or for email, host a database for your company or a CRM – Customer Relationship Management application. Perhaps you have two or three servers running a combination of these and each has its own backup system and each should.

What is likely to happen over time?

Storage inefficiency – You may find that one server, perhaps your file server, is constantly running out of storage space, while another server always seems to have too much storage space to spare, but no easy way to share it. This is a very inefficient scenario and the biggest reason why DAS solution is ultimately inefficient for growing small businesses.

Management headaches – Most DAS solutions have their own proprietary management software and interfaces and are not easy to manage remotely. You may find yourself with multiple different DAS solutions, each with its own management quirks and annoyances.

Consolidate Your Data

As with PCs, the answer to server overload is to consolidate your storage, unchain it from the server, and place it on the network where it can be shared among multiple servers and PCs. Why?

It’s efficient – You get a shared pool of networked storage that you can slice, dice, and allocate to users, applications, and servers at will. No more overloaded servers sitting next to servers with storage to spare.

It’s easy to upgrade –You no longer have to shut down your server and its applications to upgrade your storage. You can add storage to the network and make it instantly available without affecting your applications.

When it’s time to upgrade your servers, it’s no longer necessary to throw out the storage with the server or spend the time to migrate data to another server. You simply connect the new server to the network and configure it for access to your network storage. Now this isn’t always the case depending on what your server is hosting but more often than not this is a good solution to many small and medium sized businesses.

It’s cost effective – Storage makes up a significant portion of your server’s price and internal space. Separate storage on the network and you can spend fewer dollars on servers or buy more server performance and reliability for your dollar. You can also pack more servers into a smaller space, if that’s what you need to do, taking advantage of compact rack mount servers or even blade servers but don’t forget to keep your server closet or room COOL with Air Conditioning.

You have two choices for network storage: a SAN and a NAS.


Storage Area Networks (SANs) separate storage from your servers and put it on its own specialized high-performance storage network where it can be pooled and allocated to servers and applications. When a server runs out of storage, you simply allocate more storage from the SAN, rather than taking down the server to add physical storage.


Nothing beats the simplicity of NAS for fulfilling the needs of a typical small business. A NAS device sits directly on the network and, like a server, serves up files, not storage blocks. There are many advantages to NAS as a small business storage solution.

Independence – NAS devices can sit anywhere on the network, completely independent of servers, serving up files to any network connected PC’s or servers. If a server or PC goes down, the NAS is still functional. If power goes down, there’s no need for complex reconfiguration. With its simplicity, a NAS can be up and running again in minutes.

Ease of Use – NAS devices typically come as preconfigured turnkey solutions. There’s no need to install a host adapter or complex server operating system. You simply plug the NAS into the network and do some very light configuration, usually with a Web browser, and your NAS is up and running and accessible to your PCs.

Easy Upgrades – T o get more storage with NAS you simply plug in another NAS device and you’re up and running with additional file storage in minutes.

Flexibility – Today some NAS solutions also come with some built-in iSCSI capability, which can provide fast block-based storage to performance-hungry server applications that need it, while still allowing you to share and print files. In some cases you don’t even need a switch or special host adapter. You simply plug your server directly into the iSCSI port on the NAS. So you get the best of both worlds in a single easy to use and configure device.

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What if you accidently delete a file or your data gets corrupted? How can you get your data back fast?

This sort of thing happens to small businesses and even large businesses in Orlando Florida more often then many people believe. Data gets deleted by accident or a file or files gets corrupted.
Hard drives fail, computers crash, servers get to hot and overheat, these things do happen and being able to restore data quickly is very important.

One of the nice advantages of disk based backup is that it can be done quickly with little disruption to your businesses applications and operations. One of the many ways to protect files is with automated daily backups to DAS or a NAS. Most backup solutions allow you to make  full backups to disk and frequent incremental backups of data that has changed since the last full backup daily or even several times a day.

Thanks to fast disk based incremental backups, if you accidentally delete a file or if a file, a directory, or an entire system becomes corrupted due to a virus or user or hardware failure, you can recover that file or data from prior state quickly and easily so you can get right back to work.

If you’re using a NAS solution to store backups, check to see if it comes with or works easily with software that offers point in time backup and recovery. Then you can rest assured that you’ll never really lose a precious file or data that you really need for your business.

If you accidentally deleted a file or if your server or computer crashed.
Do you know for sure you could easily and quickly restore your data?

When was the last time you actually tested your backup system?

Far too often we have seen small businesses in and around Orlando Florida use obsolete backup systems and when something goes wrong they learn all along their backup system has not been backing any data up!

TEST YOUR BACKUP SYSTEM and test it often.
Purposely remove a file or files and restore them from your backup.
This is the only way to know for sure your backup system really works.

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Ohh No! My business has grown, my computers and server are running out of storage space and our computer network is a mess!

Like most small businesses, your technology investments likely started small. You invested in a PC for yourself and a few other desktop computers for staff members. Perhaps you even have a small server. Most likely users keep his or her files on his PC; when someone needs a file they grab it with a USB flash drive or send it via email. Perhaps you have a shared folder setup so users share a folder with each other on your network.

Suddenly your business grew and what happened? Some of your computers are running out of storage or are not performing very good. Files are scattered across computers and you run into not being able to keep data organized. You have different versions of files in different places. Which is the most current, relevant version? In many cases nobody knows.

With any small business there comes a time when slow, neglected, misconfigured desktop or laptop computers simply doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. That’s when it’s time to consolidate, centralize, and share file storage across the network. This is when you need a professional network administrator – business computer expert or consultant to step in and help you.

Why consolidate? Why seek a professional network administrator? There are lots of reasons.

It’s more efficient PC based file storage of business critical data is naturally inflexible , inefficient and dangerous. Some of your PC’s may have huge amounts of storage to spare, but no way share it correctly, while others constantly run out of storage and require repeated internal storage upgrades or the addition of connected external hard drives which are also not redundant of a safe to store critical data. When you centralize and share storage, you get a single storage pool that you can slice, dice, and allocate to users and applications efficiently and easily without having to add internal or external hard drives to PCs with limited unused storage. Upgrades are less frequent and the storage you have is used much more efficiently and if configured correctly will be redundant and much safer then storing your companies data on a PC or external hard drive which will break down and crash sooner or later.

It’s more organized When all your files are stored in one place, they’re easier to find. It’s easier to keep track of which file is the most current. And since you don’t have to have multiple versions of the same files spread across the office network, you save on data storage space and prevent unnecessary headaches.

It’s easier to protect You know your employees should be backing up their files but, really, who does? It’s just a matter of time before files are lost with no way to get them back. Put all your storage in one redundant place and it’s easier to implement a single robust backup strategy that’s efficient and effective.
Ok, so now you know you should consolidate and share storage, but how do you do that?

There are three basic ways:

Direct-Attached Storage (DAS)

Direct attached storage refers to the storage “external hard-drive” attached directly to a PC or server. You can share files stored on one of your PC’s hard disks or buy a server running Microsoft Windows Server or Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and share its internal storage. As discussed earlier, you can also add storage to an internal bay of your server or add external storage via a USB cable. This is not the preferred way and is really cutting corners.
I don’t know about you but I value my data and take protecting it very seriously.

These are viable solutions if you have a high quality backup system in place, but if you haven’t yet made the leap to the world of servers, consider your other options carefully. Why?

Complexity – You have to do some research and investigation to find the right server for your needs. Then you must purchase, install, and configure the hardware and operating system for your network of computer users. If you’re new to server technology this can take a long time with the potential for a high level of frustration.This is the perfect time to call upon a professional network administrator – computer and network expert to do this for you.

Once your server is installed, its loosely integrated collection of hardware, operating system, and software require ongoing tuning and troubleshooting and maintenance. The server operating system and software are likely to require frequent patching and updates for continued security and performance and most importantly business continuity.

Availability – DAS storage can only be accessed through the server or PC to which it is attached. If that server goes down or is turned off for any reason, the storage and data will not be available to the network – computer users.

Upgrades – If you run out of storage you’ll probably have to shut down the server to install a new hard disk. This requires downtime and staff resources. Some servers and external storage solutions let you swap hard disks in and out while the server is up and running, but these tend to be at the high end for medium and large business use.

Performance – The typical server operating system (OS) is designed to run many different applications, provide many different types of services, and carry out many different tasks simultaneously. A full fledged OS such as Microsoft small business server can have an unnecessary impact on performance if all you really want to do is share files.
” A good network administrator – computer and networking expert” will help you choose the best hardware and software for your specific needs and budget. Avoid the high pressure pushy IT sales guy that tries to sell you expensive hardware and software without fully explaining the pros, cons and different recommended options with you.
While high quality comes with a price  make sure you understand whats going on before open your wallet.

Flexibility – You can run into similar inefficiencies with server attached DAS drives just as you did with your PC attached DAS drives. As your business grows and you add more storage capacity to your network, heavily used servers and DAS units will run out of storage frequently, requiring upgrades, and have higher potential to break down or crash if you will.

Despite these concerns, DAS can be an inexpensive viable solution for many networks, particularly those that also want to run server applications like email, CRM, and other database solutions.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

An alternative to using DAS is to separate storage from your servers and put it on its own specialized, high performance storage network called a storage area network (SAN). With a SAN, storage is no longer enslaved to a single server but sits independently on the SAN where it can be shared, sliced, diced, and allocated to servers, users and applications from a single pool.

For years, SANs ran on a complex technology called Fibre Channel that was too expensive for small businesses.
Fibre channel SAN systems are popular in data center, server farm and other mission critical server environments commonly found with fortune 500 companies, banks, web hosting companies and other high end computing environments. However a fairly new SAN technology called iSCSI offers very good performance, uses the same equipment as your Ethernet network, and is relatively simple to use.

Like DAS, however, SAN storage uses a low level, block based storage architecture that requires a server with an operating system to present files to users. Each server needs its own iSCSI host adapter or initiator software to communicate with the SAN. That’s why if you only intend to share files and printers on your network, a full fledged SAN can be an overkill. SANs are most appropriate where higher network performance is desired.
If you intend to host a database or perhaps multiple databases or computer users share and access large files then higher performance is going to benefit you.

Network-Attached Storage (NAS)

Small businesses looking for extra storage to share files and print services should take a close look at network attached storage (NAS). Like a server, a NAS device sits directly on the network. And like a server, a NAS device serves files not bare blocks of storage to users and applications. However, unlike a server, a NAS device does not require installing, configuring, tuning, and updating a server operating system. And unlike a SAN, a NAS doesn’t need a separate server to serve up its blocks of data as files. Instead, a NAS comes preconfigured with just the parts of an operating system necessary to serve files to users and applications.

Most NAS devices serve files using either the Network File System (NFS), which is an open source file system, or the Common Internet File System (CIFS), which is the system used by Windows to serve files to the user. Many can use both. The growing popularity of Apple desktops and laptops has pushed many network storage devices to also support the Apple File Protocol (AFP).

NAS devices have several advantages:

Independence – A NAS can sit anywhere on the network, independent of servers, and serve files to any network connected computer or server. If a server or PC goes down, the NAS is still functional. If power goes down, there’s no need for complex reconfiguration. With its simple architecture and setup, a NAS can be up and running again in minutes providing there is no major damage to the unit or drives.

Ease of Use – NAS devices typically come as preconfigured, almost turnkey solutions. There’s no need to install a host adapter or operating system. You simply plug the NAS into the network and, depending on the ease of use of the user interface, you do some very light configuration using a Web browser. There may be a little more configuration to do on PC’s and servers accessing the device, but in most cases you’re up and running in minutes. Compared to traditional servers, NAS units require little maintenance, few updates, and little troubleshooting. Whatever administration is necessary can usually be done via a simple Web browser interface.

Easy Upgrades – Adding storage to a server usually requires shutting down the server, replacing a drive or adding a new one and then booting up the server again. To get more storage with NAS, you simply plug another NAS device into the network and are up and running with additional shared file storage in minutes. Or some NAS devices allow swapping of hard drives or adding internal or external storage while they are in operation (commonly known as “hot swap”).

Flexibility – Many NAS devices can share their files easily among Windows, APPLE – Mac, UNIX, and Linux based computers. Some are also flexible enough to be used as a NAS, as DAS for a single server, or, as a storage device on a SAN. Many also come with capabilities for sharing printers.

Easy Backup – NAS devices can be a great storage medium for PC based backups. Many of these devices come with backup software that is easy to configure and use, both for backing up user computers to the NAS and backing up the NAS to another storage device, tape, or an external backup service. When all your files are in one place, backup is inherently easier than when they are spread around the office. Some NAS’s also come with easy tools for migrating data to the device and replicating data over the network from storage device to storage device.

In summary, depending on the needs of your small business and your technical expertise, you may be best off with DAS, a SAN, or NAS solution. If simple file and print sharing is your goal and your staff has little networking technical expertise, a NAS is often the best solution. Regardless of which solution you have or are questioning don’t skip out on having a professional network administrator – computer – networking expert help you choose the best solution for YOU!

You are special, your business is special, your data is literally priceless  and preserving and protecting it should be taken seriously.

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Data storage solutions for small to medium sized business in and around Orlando Florida.

Not very long ago there was a crystal clear distinction between the data storage needs of small businesses and larger companies.  Small businesses depended mostly on storage contained in PCs scattered around the office, with maybe a small Windows PC or server used to share files and print services. Most small businesses lack having a network administrator or anyone with the expertise necessary to configure a server correctly or maintain even a small network.  If files are unavailable for a few hours or even a day, it is an inconvenience, not a disaster. Most large enterprises have complex networking infrastructures, with stringent security and performance requirements maintained by professional network administrators and computer experts.

The line between the storage needs of small and larger businesses has grown dramatically in the past decade. Today’s small businesses and organizations find themselves tackling many of the same storage issues as their larger counterparts, including:

How to Meet Growing Storage Requirements – The storage needs of small businesses have dramatically grown thanks to the digitization of formerly paper documents; increased use of voice, video, and other rich media; the Internet; and regulations requiring years of data and file retention. Many businesses have seen their storage requirements double and triple year after year. They need efficient ways to store and share much larger volumes of data without busting their budget or hiring an IT department.

How to Protect Your Mission Critical Data – As with larger companies, many small businesses rely on being able to access data quickly and efficiently and can barely function without data access even for a few hours. Small businesses need to find a low cost way to backup and protect their data.

How to Reduce or Eliminate Computer Downtime – Small businesses increasingly partner with larger enterprises in a global environment, or work with customers across time zones. They need simple, low cost, efficient ways to keep their data accessible on a 24 by 7 basis without sacrificing backup and server maintenance.

How to Fulfill Stringent Audit and Regulatory Requirements – It’s not just large businesses that are affected by audits and federal regulations such as HIPAA and the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Many of the smaller businesses such as lawyers and doctors need simple, workable strategies for storing and protecting sensitive data with a level of effectiveness and sophistication equivalent to that of their enterprise counterparts.

How to use storage effectively in a Virtual Server Environment – As we take advantage of the Web and server based applications such as email, shared calendars,  and CRM – customer relationship management, not many small businesses have migrated to server virtualization yet due the cost associated with paying a professional to design, build, configure, deploy, migrate data and other highly technical  tasks required to get the job done right. The long term benefits of a virtualized server environment in a small to medium size organization are savings in electricity and physical footprint space.

While these issues can seem daunting to small organizations with a limited IT budget, the good news is that Central Florida Computer Engineering has extensive experience designing, deploying and supporting the IT and data storage needs of small and medium sized businesses all over Central Florida.

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