IDG Contributor Network: File storage modernization for the small and midsize business

In our last two columns, we’ve focused our discussion on industry trends that are impacting storage architectures, as well as a few “broad stroke” architectures that may help businesses address the issues those trends created. For this month’s column (as well as more than a few future ones), I’d like to instead focus on solution strategies for improving and modernizing the storage architectures for today’s businesses.

Market drivers for SMB storage

Let’s start with looking at small and midsize businesses (SMBs). By our definition we’re talking about firms with less than 1,000 employees. While that’s hardly FORTUNE 500 territory, firms with hundreds of employees still have a deep need for enterprise-class file storage capabilities. Think design firms, software developers, architectural firms, creative businesses, etc. – all of these SMBs rely on their data and file storage as the lifeblood of their business.

The key drivers for SMBs that are looking to modernize their file storage are many times identical to the drivers for the rest of IT. In the cloud era, these firms want to take advantage of the clear business benefits in adopting the scalability and reliability of the cloud. SMBs also are almost always multi-office once you get above 10 employees, and these companies also commonly use freelancers or shared workspaces. As a result, the reasons for moving to the cloud are quite clear; SMBs need to maximize ROI by leveraging cloud solutions rather than buying, managing, and maintaining on-premise infrastructure. Why would you do this when Amazon, Azure and other solutions beckon?

Hybrid-cloud architecture addresses performance and control

When all of these benefits are considered, one wonders why all SMBs have not already shifted to a 100 percent cloud model. I see two reasons: performance and control. The performance requirements are driven by the need to deal with large files and a large and growing volume of files. Media, video, design, genomics, medical … all of these file types tend to be large and complex. As a result, the performance hit a business will take if and when these are moved to the cloud can be significant. The result is that there is still a demand for some on-premise device that can serve as a means to alleviate the performance of the cloud. As we noted in this column, the ideal architecture often works out to being a hybrid-cloud solution.