Avoiding the Headaches of Remote Storage Management
Today, when enterprise companies open offices in new regions or even continents, IT does not always grow accordingly. Instead, they are often forced to set up, provision, and manage these new branches from a distance. Of course, problems always pop up, and they cannot always be solved remotely.
We interviewed several of our customers to learn more about the challenges of remote storage management across distributed enterprises. A shortage of personnel was one of the recurring themes: One of our customers has 35 offices around the world but only six IT members outside its headquarters. Occasionally they have to fly people out to distant branches to troubleshoot.
Even with limited personnel, IT directors might think they have everything at a distant branch under control. Then an emergency proves otherwise. Another one of our customers, headquartered in London with more than 30 offices globally, experienced this in their Moscow office. In Russia, it’s not unusual for officials to knock on your door and simply demand your servers - and when they ask, you hand them over. When this happened to our customer, they requested a few hours to get everything organized, and quickly found out that the office’s backups were five months old. As they scrambled to replicate to another site, the officials lost interest and decided against taking the servers. Still, this could have been a major disaster. Trying to direct the operation remotely was almost impossible.
Enterprises that do have the resources to staff remote offices can run into difficulties of their own. Everyone in IT has an opinion about best practices and techniques and when they’re far removed from headquarters, they’re more inclined to implement them. Companies can end up with a series of IT silos that operate differently and inefficiently.
Thankfully there are ways to avoid these headaches. Based on our interview data we have compiled the following best practices:
Managing Storage from Afar
IT should aim to centralize data storage and protection. This will help ensure that each site has reliable backup and protection. At the same time, IT needs to balance this more centralized approach to control with distributed access at each location.
Remote offices should be managed in “lights-out” mode. IT should strive to eliminate the need for personnel on-site and establish a single point-of-control. Potential solutions should be evaluated in terms of the full cost of a technology, including the on-going effort and management required.
Central IT should establish and enforce a clear set of standards and practices for remote infrastructure setup and maintenance. The more decisions can be templatized, the less time IT will waste resolving remote management issues.
Building in these best practices will allow IT to overcome these personnel-related headaches. As we learned from our interviews, though, this is only one component of the larger problem of managing storage remotely across a distributed enterprise. In our next post, we will discuss the pain that often results from relying on traditional storage solutions.