Each year, the need for businesses to have access to reliable and affordable storage servers rises. This could be due to increased regulatory requirements to store customer data for longer periods of time, or perhaps the need for a redundant array due to cyber threats, or simply because we require a larger storage capacity. One thing is clear, it can be pretty difficult to navigate the countless offline and cloud storage options available. Some of the more common questions we get asked include:
What type of storage do servers use?
How many types of server storage are there?
What are the 3 types of storage?
Which server is best for storage?
In this article, we’ll outline how to choose the right business data storage solutions, what hardware requirements to consider, and outline our top picks for your storage server solutions.
Selecting the Right Storage Server Solution Type
What Enterprise Data Storage Options are Available?
When you are looking for storage for data, there are a variety of data storage types to choose from, the key is finding the right one that fits your business needs. You must first review the server storage options available to you. When it comes to storage resources for your business, you have three primary categories to choose from which we have described below:
Direct Attached Storage
Storage Area Network
Cloud Data Storage
What is it?
On-site digital storage which is directly connected to servers, computers, and other devices in order to form part of a storage network. This could be an external hard drive or a NAS.
An on-site centralized data storage solution which pools the resources of many servers to deliver high-performance and expandable storage.
A server or cluster of servers which is hosted remotely in a secure data center. Users can purchase additional servers for cloud storage without incurring expensive hardware purchases.
Easy to setup and retain physical access
Fast file transfers as data is hosted on-site
Ability to increase storage capacity by adding new resources to pool
No up-front hardware costs
Easy to setup and maintain
Low cost for server management without hiring staff
Not ideal for redundant storage
Difficult to expand storage requirements
Limited physical security
Most expensive to setup and maintain
May not have infrastructure to setup security and fire suppression of servers
Monthly server rental cost
Data hosted off-network, download and upload speeds limited to your local connection speed
HPE Nimble Storage
1TB RAID10 Storage
Starting at $174/month.
Choosing the Backup Storage Type
Now that you are familiar with the three primary storage types, you will have to determine which one is best for your business. Consider the following personas to help you make your decision:
Direct Attached Storage
Direct attached storage is a file storage system where multiple users on the network share files without compromising the system network. DAS solutions are perfect for small businesses and often contain multiple drives, depending on your needs. This option requires installing NAS devices onto the LAN through TCP/IP. Review this persona to determine if your business falls into this category:
My business data storage requirements are modest and I do not need to store mission-critical data
I want a server storage solution that is tolerant to hardware failure, but it doesn't need to be physically protected from intruders or environmental threats
Because my storage requirements are small, I want a simple solution like a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device or an external hard drive that I can just plugin and drag files to
Storage Area Network SAN and Network Attached Storage (NAS)
One cannot mention Storage Area Network (SAN) without the mention of Network Attached Storage (NAS). NAS serves files over Ethernet in the form of a single storage device which is usually inexpensive and easy to install, which makes it a perfect option for small businesses. It allows users good access controls and security support in different locations when accessing stored data. NAS storage also provides data resiliency via a RAID configuration, making multiple drives appear like a single drive, while also being able to withstand failure on some of the drives.
SAN on the other hand as we noted is a network made up of multiple storage devices, which is usually managed by an IT person or team. To simplify, SAN-connected drives appear on your system as a local drive, whereas NAS uses protocols like NFS and SMB/CIFS and delivers shared storage as network-mounted volumes.
SAN is built from a combination of servers and storage. Businesses that choose SAN tend to require high-performance, low-latency shared access to storage. This allows the fastest possible connection due to the use of Fibre Channel connections between the user and the device. If you have a number of users using high-demand applications like graphic or video rendering, SAN is a flexible solution for shared storage. Refer to this persona to determine if SAN is the right choice for you:
My business data storage requirements are complex and expand rapidly on a regular basis
I am more interested in making a large up-front hardware payment than paying a regular monthly fee
I have staff on-site to maintain and monitor servers
My office is secure from physical and environmental threats and has redundant power and networking
Cloud / Remote Storage
Likely the most attractive benefit of cloud storage is its simplicity. Cloud storage takes much of the work required in SAN and automates it, allowing you to focus on the core competencies that support your business model.
Cloud services also take much of the requirement for an IT staff out of the equation. The interface used by most Cloud solutions providers allows you to manage data center backup and recovery processes simply with a few mouse clicks.
In addition to security and recovery, Cloud storage affords timely rapid deployment of your resources. With so many people working from home and the adoption of the hybrid workplace, workloads are rapidly changing, while new environments are being required every day. In many cases, Cloud deployment can happen in hours instead of weeks or months.
If you answer yes to more than one of these, then you likely require a Cloud solution.
I want a storage solution that can grow with my business without an expensive hardware bill
I need to store important business data which is protected from physical access and flood, fire, or other environmental damage
I want to reduce the need for additional staff by having access to a support and server management team to help me manage my Cloud storage.
Once you have determined which business data storage solution may be the right fit for your needs, let's consider your hardware selection. Learning about your hardware needs will get you started on the right path and likely save you time and money in the long run.
What are your network capabilities? What is your connection speed and network architecture? Will it allow you to take advantage of Flash? Is speed important to you? The last thing you want is a bottleneck.
Solid State, NVMe and Hard Disk Drives
Solid State refers to exactly what is 'states', the drive always remains in a 'solid state' with no moving parts, unlike traditional Hard Disk Drives. A Flash drive is an SSD, but not all SSD is Flash.
NVMe (nonvolatile memory express) is the newest storage access and transport protocol for flash and next-generation solid-state drives (SSDs). They have become a popular option of late due to their increased read/write speeds and decreased failure rates. If your storage server needs are modest, we would recommend choosing one of these drives.
However, if you need high storage capacity for your data but don't need to read/write to the drives at a high rate, standard Hard Disk Drives can also offer huge storage capacity at a lower price tag. HDD is the traditional storage medium, a spinning magnetic disk and mechanical read/write head. It will not boot as fast as SSD, but it is much more inexpensive and a reliable technology. HDD also does not deteriorate over time from repeated rewriting, a major plus.
You can offset the performance and reliability issues with Hard Disk Drives by setting them up in a RAID configuration.
RAID is data storage virtualization technology and is the most basic configuration option that you must think about immediately after hardware selection. RAID is an acronym for "redundant array of inexpensive disks" or "redundant array of independent disks", but most people refer to them as a disk array or simply as 'RAID'.
It brings together a host of storage drives into one or more units for data redundancy and performance improvements. Data is then spread across the units, deploying the 'RAID Disk Array', commonly referred to as RAID levels. Each RAID level offers a different level of redundancy and performance, depending on your needs. RAID offers differing levels of reliability, availability, capacity and performance.
Simply put, RAID is a technology used to create data redundancy by copying or spreading data across multiple hard drives. The result is increased performance in reading/writing data and if one hard drive fails, the data in the RAID array is not lost.
No storage server would be complete without some kind of RAID configuration. All levels of RAID, with the exception of RAID 0 will provide protection on entire physical drives and against unrecoverable sector read errors.
For an enterprise storage solution, we recommend RAID-10 with a battery backup unit for the perfect mix of price and performance. This requires four (hard) disk drives to operate, each with 1TB of storage, providing you with 4x 1TB drives.
For more information on RAID, check out our article Everything You Wanted to Know About RAID (and Why You Need It).
For the majority of business data storage projects, the processor is not a critical component in the hardware selection process. While it is important to know the differences in processor capacity, their cores, and threads, however for pure data storage not requiring heavy processing like video editing, we recommend one of the latest generation Intel server processors. They will provide you with optimal performance but any modern CPU is likely to meet your needs as the server is more dependent on hard drives and networking.
Want to know the difference between Intel vs AMD? Check out our blog to learn more.
Similar to the processor, data storage servers are generally not memory intensive. In order to facilitate operating system usage and other application performance on the server, we would generally recommend 16GB - 32GB, which is fairly standard for modern servers of any kind. If you would like to know more about memory vs storage, we have a wonderful blog you can read.
You do not want the network card of your storage server to be the bottleneck to quickly downloading and uploading files to the server, so a 1Gbps or 10Gbps network card and connection are ideal.
You can discuss your network requirements by booking a free consultation with one of our expert advisors.
Cloud Storage Server Recommendations
We have selected a few of our popular Cloud Storage configurations depending on some sample business requirements. Keep in mind that we can always develop a custom solution if you have a large amount of data you need to store or other custom requirements.
An affordable option.
Increased redundancy and storage.
Large storage and redundancy needs.
Direct Attached Storage Recommendations
Ideal for small offices and IT enthusiasts
Increased redundancy and storage.
Large storage and redundancy needs.
Synology 5 bay NAS DiskStation DS1019+
Synology 8 bay NAS DiskStation DS1819+
Synology 12 bay NAS DiskStation DS2419+
Congratulations!You are now familiar with the various types of storage servers and the hardware considerations relevant to each. We would encourage you to make a list of your questions and book your free consultation with our team. We will help you get started by setting up the best storage server for your company's needs and ensuring it meets your budget.
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