How I Freed Up Storage at the Speed of SaaS

By Martin Male, CIO |  Storage, SAN

Like many public school systems, the Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) serves a continually growing population under a tight budget. The district, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, employs more than 250 dedicated staff members in eight separate schools serving more than 2,000 students. The tech team is proud of its work to ensure a brighter future for all students, staff, parents and community members. Imagine our chagrin when we learned that we were quickly burning up storage space and were about to run out of room in two of our SAN storage units in the middle of the year.

Here are the lessons my team learned when our data levels came close to exceeding our storage capacity.

1. Don't Just Add Storage Capacity

The mistake many of us in IT make when confronted with a capacity management issue is to simply add more storage. Yes, this does alleviate the problem, but it has serious long-term costs and maintenance issues. We came to the realization that much of the data causing our IT log jam was likely outdated or unnecessary. The problem we then faced, however, was that we didn't know what we needed to keep and what could be deleted.

2. Unstructured Data at Root of Problem

As anybody who has managed a company's storage infrastructure can attest, it's amazing how much content end users can create quickly. The proliferation of unstructured data causes storage volumes to grow quickly--sometimes so quickly that it can catch you off guard. (Unstructured data is loosely defined as computerized information that does not reside in a database.) Things like e-mail, spreadsheets and documents fit into this category and were quickly eating up our storage capacity.

The key word in the term is "unstructured." We found it difficult to effectively manage data in these file formats. It's the IT equivalent of herding kittens. Because of this challenge, we saw value in a data governance solution.

People often bristle at governance solutions because they are perceived as large, clunky on-premise solutions that are expensive and require extensive maintenance. Having a small staff supporting eight locations, each with their own SAN and file servers, I needed a solution that would give us answers fast. I needed to know which files we could delete right then and there to reclaim disk space, without the hassle and complexity of the infrastructure that some of the enterprise solutions require.

3. SaaS Offers Speed

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