CIO: Are you a data hoarder?

Is your SAN (Storage Area Network) old and expensive to maintain? Is a forced SAN migration in your future?

It’s common knowledge that healthcare organizations are generating and storing more data than ever, and storage is becoming more affordable. It would seem companies could just keep adding storage to handle their expanding data stores; but dig deeper and you’ll find that storage isn’t as cheap as it’s often perceived to be, particularly when you factor in expenses for the software and infrastructure required to manage and house the data.

There’s also the matter of managing the storage that’s already in-house, which for IT personnel means constantly assessing hardware and processes that could pose problems down the road if they become too outdated.

For these reasons and others, good storage management is an essential part of keeping a business technologically afloat. For some executives, the traits, tools, and decisions that comprise good storage management aren’t entirely clear, nor are the negative outcomes to the business that poor storage management can lead to.

With a little help from Mark Watts, CRA, Associate VP of Novarad, we’ve set out to cover these topics.

The Technicalities

Storage influences all aspects of an organization.

“Storage underpins all your applications, housing the data required to keep the lights on, bill customers, pay employees, and keep hospitals shelves stocked.” — Mark Watts, CRA

Generally speaking, executing good storage management ensures systems are healthy and performing and that there’s enough space to store all data. Failing at these tasks can result in applications running slower or stopping, which depending on the application, can cause an immediate negative impact on business.

For example, if an application runs out of addressable storage capacity,  it can’t commit changes or updates. Prior to this an application’s performance will begin to degrade, taking a longer time to run processes and delaying processing requests. This impacts user productivity and potentially larger business processes such as processing orders and quality of care.

The tools IT personnel use to monitor and manage data and storage can range from simple operating system-based functions that list directories and capacities to purpose-built management tools tied to a particular storage system or management software package, Watts said.

Good storage management.

Traits of good storage management meanwhile, generally include having complete knowledge of (1) what data the organization has, (2) what purpose the data serves, and (3) where that data should reside.

Other desirable traits include having a full set of policies around how the organization captures and manages data, such as knowing what storage is in use, what’s available, and what’s unallocated.

“They understand the headroom they have before they need to purchase more capacity,” Watts said. Other common characteristics include using storage-efficiency tools (deduplication, compression, etc.) to reduce storage demands and employing good capacity planning and troubleshooting processes to identify storage issues (system health, performance, etc.) before they lead to downtime.

Often, larger organizations have a dedicated storage team well-versed in storage technologies. According to Watts, such teams understand how to leverage storage as a competitive advantage, regarding storage as something strategic vs. an afterthought or necessary evil. An alternative is contracting with a managed service manager, which tends to work well for up to midsized organizations where architectural decisions, such as server virtualization and shared storage systems, will drive the level of attention to storage management.

In the following articles, we will address IT issues, recognizing when you should switch systems, and the actual process of switching. Join us for our next post Tuesday, February 24.

Find Mark Watts on Twitter @MarkWattsCRA, or connect on LinkedIn.


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